Most leaders admit they don’t delegate enough and the obstacles sound like this:
“Everyone on the team is busy. I can’t ask anyone to do more.”
“It takes longer to explain how to do it than to just do it myself.”
“I don’t trust that they will get it done the way I want it.”
“What if they say no?”
Does this sound familiar to you too? It sums up what got in the way for me as a leader when I knew I needed to delegate but didn’t. It really boiled down to two things: confidence and skill.
These two things are what hold us back from just about everything. If we lack confidence and skill, we simply won’t do “it”. Insert whatever “it” you want here: delegate, address conflict, switch careers, etc.
The rate at which we learn and grow is directly related to our confidence and skill. Let's work on building both. Here are three tips to help everyone delegate better..
Examine and Reframe Your Assumptions
What is holding you back from delegating? What is in your head or what story do you tell yourself about delegating? Consider any other thoughts you have that are in addition to the four at top of the page.
These are mental barriers and the more they are repeated in your head, the less likely you are to do what you want to do. It makes sense. If I say to myself “I don’t trust others to get it done.”, then I am giving myself permission to not trust others. Same for thinking about the notion of asking for help and the person saying no. If I continue to consider that being rejected is the most likely response I will receive, I give myself permission to avoid delegating.
Once you have brought to light your assumptions, reframe them, or create a statement that adjusts your perspective into one that is focused on options. For example, if everyone on the team is busy and you can’t ask, then reframe to “I’m a leader and delegating is a part of my job. What can I do to help the team (and myself) shift priorities?” If my barrier about is someone saying no, then the reframe is “What if they say yes? The answer is always no if I don’t ask.”
A simple reframe may be just what you need.
Know Your Team
Some time ago I worked with a leader who had one wall of her office covered by an immense spreadsheet. It listed the name of each member of her team, their strengths, their interests, committees or work groups, as well as spaces to write in projects or assignments. I remember asking her about it:
“The team calls it the ‘Master Mind’ but I use it to manage workload. I track who is doing what. When projects come up or I need to delegate, I select the person who is the best fit for the work based on strengths, interests, and current workload. The best part is the team can look at it whenever they want to see what is on everyone’s plate.”
This leader had developed a practice of consistent and fair assignment of work. It took the questions (and emotion) out of the act of delegating. The transparency of making the information public increases the team’s trust in her as well as each other. In today’s remote environment, this kind of spreadsheet may not work, but an Excel file saved in a public share folder would be equally as effective.
Slow Down and Let Go
Control and lack of trust are the biggest obstacles to delegation. Sometimes, you just have to let go. Let go of perfection, certainty, and “…but I can do it better or faster myself.” Getting results through others (i.e. leadership) requires letting go, a lot.
When you have something to delegate, be clear on the desired result. For example, if you are delegating market research to a member of your staff, what is the result? Do you want a memo, email, or report? How long and what information do you expect? How will that market research be used and what decisions will be made? Get specific about your expectations and set a deadline. Then, let go of the process that person takes to complete the task. They likely won’t do it your way and will certainly think about it differently. That’s good. Set the expectation for the result (and timing, don’t forget the deadline) then, let them employ their own method.
To quote Steve Jobs “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” The best part about delegating is that it gets easier the more you do it. Frequency builds both confidence and skills.
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Until next time!
Amy Drader is a management consultant and credentialed coach with over 20 years’ experience in HR and operations. She knows first-hand the joys and challenges of leading people and is dedicated to helping managers and teams advance their performance. She is the owner of Growth Partners Consulting, a boutique leadership and team development consulting firm that provides customized training and coaching.