Delegating work and tasks to your team members is one of the most necessary and important skills of leadership. It also remains one of the most challenging for many new and experienced managers.
However, there are several things you can do to develop this skill.
In order to free up space to be more strategic, have a greater impact, be more efficient, and achieve work/life balance, delegating appropriate tasks to others is necessary and even required for managers today. This can feel risky – especially if the leader is high controlling, is a perfectionist, or has a heavy workload.
The art and science of delegating to others begins with your own sense of comfort in releasing responsibility of what you control. Many managers struggle with this. Delegation and control are common topics with my coaching clients. They recognise the importance of delegation and how it can serve them, but some still struggle with letting go.
Effective leaders who climb the corporate ladder are skilled at delegating and developing people. (1)
The first step is to define what tasks are to be delegated. This begins with your ability to prioritise. Using the decision matrix below, you can separate your actions based on four possibilities.
- Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
- Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
- Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
- Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).
The great thing about this matrix is that it can be used for broad productivity plans (“How should I spend my time each week?”) and for smaller, daily plans (“What should I do today?”). (2)
This process is easier if you learn to apply conscious and deliberate decision-making.
I often say to clients, “if you don’t control things, they will control you”. This tool may provide an opportunity to improve. Prioritising tasks by urgency and importance results in 4 quadrants with different work strategies.(3)
The most effective leaders and people schedule time for important, less-urgent tasks and activities. As the video explains, the less-important, but urgent tasks can often be delegated. It is not about being obsessive, but rather ensuring the things that matter the most actually occur. Once priorities have been established, one of the most effective methods of aligning actions with team member is via 1:1’s.
Formalising expectations and ensuring that real understanding exists regarding the work and tasks required is a key component of an effective 1:1. Good leaders see this time as an investment not a cost, therefore rarely compromise on making the most of the opportunity.
Quite simply, with the pace and expectations of modern organisations, if it’s not scheduled it rarely happens.
I have noticed in recent years when coaching and mentoring that there is a relatively consistent behavioural trend in those who delegate least often. The unwillingness or lack of awareness to delegate to others often stems from a lack of the managers self-confidence. This is also regularly displayed by those managers who also struggle with the idea of team members working remotely.
It is difficult to learn to lead well and trust others if you don’t trust yourself.
One of the most difficult transitions for leaders to make is the shift from doing to leading. There’s a psychological shift to focus your attention on areas that are vital to the company and become less involved in the daily tasks. That shift can bring about fear. “What will happen if I let go and delegate that responsibility? Will I be able to make the transition to my new role and focus? Will I be seen as less vital if I delegate certain tasks? No one can do it as good as me.” It’s a leader’s responsibility to focus on the success of their employees.
You retain your top talent by keeping your employees engaged, empowered and letting them develop their skills to become leaders. A leader’s second responsibility is to determine priorities. Third is to address projects. (4)
Often leaders delegate tasks when they should be delegating authority. If you delegate tasks, you get followers. If you delegate authority, you get leaders.Craig Groeschel
A recent Forbes article asks a great question, “How do you know if you need to delegate more?”
- Red flag No. 1: You say things like, “I’m overwhelmed. I get sucked into too many meetings,” or “I’m drained by all of the decisions that I have to make.”
- Red flag No. 2: Your ability to unplug can only be measured in hours, not days or weeks.
- Red flag No. 3: You don’t delegate a task because a portion of the process is complex or has exceptions.
- Red flag No. 4: You once tried to delegate a responsibility and it didn’t go well, so you took the task back.
- Reg flag No. 5: You find yourself stuck in a decision bottleneck, leading to inaction on many fronts.
- Red flag No. 6: You aren’t happy or fulfilled at work.
- Red flag No. 7: You claim you don’t have time to delegate or train someone. (4)
As a new manager you can get away with holding on to work.
Peers and bosses may even admire your willingness to keep “rolling up your sleeves” to execute tactical assignments. But as your responsibilities become more complex, the difference between an effective leader and a super-sized individual contributor with a leader’s title is painfully evident.
In the short term you may have the stamina to get up earlier, stay later, and out-work the demands you face. But the inverse equation of shrinking resources and increasing demands will eventually catch up to you, and at that point how you involve others sets the ceiling of your leadership impact. The upper limit of what’s possible will increase only with each collaborator you empower to contribute their best work to your shared priorities. Likewise, your power decreases with every initiative you unnecessarily hold on to. (5)
The irony of poor delegating is that it serves no-one well.
The manager is most often overwhelmed and performing poorly; team members can easily become bored and work becomes repetitious; trust and relationships are diminished; skills, capability and competence don’t grow; confidence in self and in others is not built and can in fact, be reduced; and, results are being limited, amongst other impacts.
The opposite is just as true. Through effective delegation, real opportunity to engage your team members and positively influence results can be gained. The challenge: if you improve your delegating capability, would you become an even better leader? It’s always a choice.
Keep growing and enjoying!