Growing your leadership impact is no small job! It requires new thinking, new approaches, AND plenty of courage, trust and WORK. The bad news, we might as well be honest, is that initially, it will take more work on your part to build a team that can become more accountable and capable. This is where the power of skilled delegation comes in. Delegating is one of the single most empowering tools in a leader’s toolbox. It serves both the leader and their team members. As the leader learns to share responsibility and accountability, the team is supported and encouraged to grow their abilities, perspectives, and confidence.
The keys to success?
It's critical for leaders to first determine exactly WHAT needs to be accomplished. If the leader were doing the task themselves there is a large amount of context and consideration required to reach the goal.
When delegating to others, the leader is required to do some serious pre-thinking in order to fully and appropriately communicate all of the key considerations to the person who is now going to take on that work. This is all about clarifying: what success looks like, what are the boundaries, how success will be measured, and what are the most important factors to consider and balance. It also requires thinking about time frame, check-ins, and coaching support that might be appropriate to ensure success and yet allow the team member to learn and grow.
It is no surprise given all of this thinking that many leaders put off delegating to others for months and years too long … it's a lot of work to delegate well. Those managers will tell you “It’s just easier to do it myself.” They are right. The first time. The synergy and learning and motivation and growth (for everyone involved) come over time. This means a leader needs to have “their eyes up” on the future (medium and long term) and not just staring at every task right in front of them with no concern for the bigger picture. From a senior management perspective, this is an easy way to spot an immature leader that needs to stretch and grow. When they don’t step into this more complex work of developing others they become the choke point/the hindrance for increasing team impact.
Next up comes the WHY:
This is the critical context that helps the person being delegated to understand what is driving this particular project. Providing proper context empowers the team member and not only helps them succeed on this task but also to learn for the future. The biggest problem here? Far too often, managers will fail to give appropriate context because “they are in a hurry and don’t have time to explain everything.” BIG MISTAKE.
Given just this step alone being done poorly or insufficiently, it is no wonder then that delegation so often goes wrong for unskilled leaders. Imagine being given a project but not having your leader be willing to take the time to explain the bigger picture. What it feels like is your boss dumping work on you vs giving you an important piece of work (and that means you understand not only the WHAT but also the WHY). Why it is important, why this employee is being given the opportunity, and how it ties to the employee’s strengths or critical development areas – all of this gets considered and appropriately communicated in successful and skilled delegation.
Last of all, you have the HOW:
How is this project going to get done? The simple, obvious truth is the more space the employee or team has to come up with and execute the HOW given the WHAT and WHY, the more accountability, learning and engagement you will see. This is tricky for the leader of course as they know how they would do it. They know how to make it successful … and yet if they specify all of that … it isn’t delegation, it isn't learning it isn’t empowering. It's just telling smart people what to do now that you have piled on another task to their plate.
It is SO TEMPTING for the leader to give too much here and yet they must balance that with only giving enough, for this person or team, in order for them to be successful. Some leaders specify far too much and hurt employee engagement and motivation, let alone the chance to learn and grow. Other leaders give too little information and that sets the team up for almost certain failure.
We didn’t say it would be easy … because it isn’t! It takes thought, planning and skilled execution, questioning, listening and coaching along the way. No wonder companies and employees so treasure skilled leaders!
In summary, by delegating the WHAT, explaining the WHY, and giving people appropriate ownership and support around the HOW, leaders are able to inspire, engage, and increase commitment, trust and creativity. THAT IS SKILLED, MATURE LEADERSHIP!
Here are some specific tips to help you become the best delegator and leader possible.
Build It In
The environment of your workplace sets the stage for smooth delegation. Thoughtful, considered thinking and execution yields a smoother experience down the road.
- A foundation for great delegation is established by modeling through behavior. Model accountability and honesty in your own work and your team will follow suit.
- Make your expectations clear upfront. Give clear direction throughout the entire process. Don’t leave your team guessing!
- Don’t hijack the “how” for your team - Once you ask them to do something, show them that you trust their decisions by letting them do their jobs.
- Provide coaching and feedback along the way, be available for questions from the team and show them their success is important to you.
Set your team up for success by being a proactive leader. Delegation with vague directions will likely end in disappointment on both sides. Prepare your team with a clear plan.
- Considering sharing tools with them - checklists and project plans
- Provide clear examples of success criteria and deliverables
- Be proactively available and check in - in addition to inviting your team to come to you.
Demonstrate trust in your team while remaining available to them. Done well, your team will feel cared for and equipped to be successful.
- Teach, guide, and empower
- Communicate early and often
- Give feedback from yourself and others - celebrate small wins!
The best way to grow is through reflection. Including post-project evaluations so that every participant maximizes their learning is a classic best practice that few teams actually take the time to do.
- Close projects with self-review of plusses and minuses of the project
- If multiple team members are involved in the work, ask them to give each other feedback on the most valuable things they saw from each other and what would have made them even more successful.
- Be sure to provide your candid observations regarding the project (emphasizing both strengths and areas for growth).
- Be sure to include observations and feedback from other stakeholders in the business whose perspectives would be relevant and valuable.
- Have the project owners lead these reviews on lessons learned
These tips will help guide you on the path toward delegating more effectively and therefore helping your entire team grow!
If you find yourself struggling to lead well in equipping your team, schedule a call with EngagedLeadership today so we can help you grow beyond what you ever thought possible.