Delegation and You

As we start to talk about delegation, it sometimes becomes confusing. I look at my calendar and it is jammed. I want to get things off my plate. I don’t. I won’t.  I can’t.

There was a Fast Company article discussing delegation and some steps to get there. Here’s my take on a few of those points and then some comments on what may still be in your way. Delegation shows up all the time in coaching sessions and is in Leadership DISC or models of human behavior. In many ways, they are joined at the hip, whatever’s delegated and all the ideas that come along with that need to be communicated in a manner that is received and understood by the people or team taking on the work.

6 key ideas to ask yourself about your delegation

Number one, how well do you delegate? You need to get a lay of the land. You may believe you are brilliant at it or maybe not so brilliant at it. The way to find out, look at your calendar, is it jammed? You may recall, I talked about a coaching client with 27 items on a single day. At our next session, he gleefully announced on that day he had 32. It didn’t make him happy, but his calendar was jammed. If yours is jammed, you may be in a place of not delegating effectively. You could ask your team, what’s their understanding of what is delegated. What would they like or prefer? You may need to figure out: when do I do it well, when do I do it not so well, why does it take so long, or when did I do it too quickly? You need to understand where you are at in delegation in order to make the changes that you desire.

The second idea, where are the guardrails or where are the clear expectations? These are paramount. For people to be successful, they need to understand the expectations. Unclear expectations will almost immediately result in ‘they didn’t do it’ in our heads, and that leads to less delegation over time. And that can lead to frustration for them or the team. They believe they’re going in the right direction and they missed the uncommunicated expectations. They’re not mind readers. Don’t expect them to be.

Number three, authority matters. If you’re going to delegate a task, people need to have sufficient authority to complete it. Think about an occasion in your life when someone asks you to do something and then does not give you the power to make that decision. I’m sure we’ve got lots of examples throughout our lives. A classic one comes to mind. You may know it.

It goes like this. ‘Hey honey, where would you like to go for dinner?’ This is a loaded question. It may mean ‘Please decide where we are going’, or it may mean ‘Please make suggestions so I can decide’. If it’s unclear, the result may be frustration, hunger, a lack of performance by the team, and you’re thinking, why did I ever delegate? Well, that’s on you, not the team.

The fourth idea is about progress and feedback. There needs to be regular conversations about progress. This allows support and feedback. Here’s a big caution. Don’t take it back. You are looking for people to deliver what they have been asked. This can be a challenge for many people as we think we can do it better or faster or both. Along with this last point, Number five, please don’t let them give it back to you. If your people are well-equipped, tasked appropriately, have clear expectations set for them, and have the skills and appropriate authority, they can do the work. That’s why you gave it to them and not the dog.

Number six, ultimately this will develop people and unlock their capabilities. This is growth and development. It is a requirement of leaders and a delegation allows you as a leader to be more productive with the resources you have.

What’s in Your Way?

Not Delgating? So why do you not delegate it or avoid it sometimes? Well, there are lots of reasons and we’ve mentioned a couple of them already. The ‘I can do it better, faster’ seems to be a common refrain. Here are a couple of other ideas. Fear, they won’t do it. It will come back to me. What do I do for my work if I don’t do it? Trust. I don’t trust them. I don’t know them. Are they skilled enough, competent enough, smart enough?) Which is an interesting kind of comment because potentially you hired them).

Shame, they won’t do it to my standards, and that’s a reflection on me.

As you may have noticed, the common block between you and delegation is you. The upward transition to manager to director and far above requires more delegation and a move away from day-to-day tasks. We used to say the closer to the top, the cleaner the desk, because the work was thinking, leading and delegating.

So do it.

Now What?

It may take some coaching to help you get out of the way. It can be challenging and so worth it. You may need to understand your personality a little more to be effective.

What to do? Figure out something you can delegate today. Use some of these ideas and make your delegation effective. And practice it more.

PS – get your personality assessment here

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