I am anticipating working on something that I am not particularly good at. The deadline is looming and somehow it must be done. I seem to be my last resort. My go-to person for stuff that “needs to get done”. This is not a boast, but rather a confession. I am terrible at delegating. My default is to delay and dither rather than delegate. I need to change that. Let me explain why.
Delegation – Why make it a priority
Becoming better at delegating will force me to more clearly define my core contribution at work. I know that the task I referenced above is not utilizing my skill set. I am doing it because I failed to delegate and now I am cornered by a deadline. It would be better for me and for my team if I focused on things that flow out of my strengths and passions. If something lies outside of that, my new default should be to consider delegating it.
The second reason to delegate is related to the first. If a task doesn’t lie within key contributions, it might line up with the core strengths of someone else. Delegation is an opportunity to enable someone to take on a task and make a valued contribution. Done sincerely, delegation can boost morale, confidence and development of team members.
Third, thoughtful delegation will facilitate better results than what can be hoped for as I hustle to get something done. An empowered peer can bring a new perspective, better-tuned competencies and fresh creativity. Welcomed innovation could be the outcome.
Delegation – How to do it better
Above I talked about ’sincere’ and ’thoughtful’ delegation. I am looking for better results than me doing it. I won’t get those if I reflexively assign the task because I feel overwhelmed. Thoughtless and reactive delegation will eventually make me look like a jerk. I want to avoid that.
My first question should be does the prospective recipient of my delegation possess sufficient experience and competency, or motivation and the capacity to learn, to effectively handle the assignment. There is no gain to knowingly set a subordinate up for a loss.
I need to learn to truly be supportive of the employee to whom I have delegated a task. That means I need to clearly define the desired outcomes and any deadlines. I must make a real handoff and not keep hanging on to the work. The employee should have the necessary resources and authority to do what I have asked them to do and the freedom from me to achieve the outcomes their way (within the values framework of our office).
My follow-up should not be a surprise. It is part of the hand-off. I should tell the employee what to expect, so that when it happens it isn’t interpreted as negative or reactive. My follow-up needs to major in encouragement; suggestions should be sparingly given. If the work has veered off course I should revisit the desired outcomes and invite the employee to suggest what correctives they should implement.
When the task is complete I need to be pro-active in giving praise where it is due. And I should shun the temptation of claiming another’s credit.
Delegation – What not to delegate
Just in case I go hog-wild (not even sure what that means) in delegating tasks, here are a few things I shouldn’t give away to others.
First, if something is clearly part of my job, then giving it away to another is not delegating but shirking my responsibilities. Team building through praise, instruction and correction is my thing. It would be wrong for me to ask a team member to discipline a peer.
Other things that are core to leadership and therefore ought not to be passed off are: casting vision, handling crises and cultivating workplace culture.
What do you find difficult to delegate?