Do you ever fall into the trap of thinking that best way to get something done right is to do it yourself? Are you too enamored with your own way of doing things? If yes, then you might find it difficult to shift your mindset from ‘doing’ to ‘leading’. Effective leadership is all about right delegation. Leaders who know how to delegate well see beyond just getting a task done. They also know ways to empower their team in order to learn, grow and develop.
Leaders who hesitate to delegate their work often do so either for the fear of losing control, or feel that others may not do it according to their expectations. Some leaders make themselves a priority by getting involved in every task, but however such a mindset can become a major impediment while getting their best work done. This is because trying to accomplish or micromanage too many things leads to stress and burnout. Increasing work demands not only shrink their resources like time and energy, but also eventually decrease their leadership potential.
If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate. — John C. MaxwellTweet
Why delegating is an important leadership skill
The delegating leadership style is one of the four task-based styles (S4) of situational leadership. As leaders take on more work, they save themselves from getting overwhelmed. They can let go of operational level tasks, so they can focus on the big-picture—vision, or planning their priorities instead. Successful delegating improves team efficiency and decreases the workload and thus is a great way to develop others. It further improves,
- Trust. Since at the most fundamental level, delegating is assigning work to others, it demonstrates the trust you have in others. This fosters a culture of trust and collaborative environment and makes your subordinates more self-reliant.
- Empowerment. If you learn how to delegate well, it empowers everyone on the team, builds trust, and assists with professional development. Team members get empowered in making decisions for themselves and shared responsibility decreases wastage of resources.
- Organisational effectiveness. Since delegating also involves sharing authority and responsibility with your team members, it improves the quality of work done, accelerates results and helps to achieve the required objectives.
- Team decision-making. When teams have the freedom to complete their tasks on their own time, it increases their task-related decision making capabilities with regards to what should be completed on priority. This paves way for completing the work in timely manner.
- Individual motivation and accountability. Leaders who delegate work are responsible for their teams, but provide guidance only when required. Without constant step-by-step instructions, individuals feel more accountable for the given task and thrive in an environment where they have more freedom to grow.
- Improved performance. Delegating places leaders in a supporting role where they mentor or coach individuals. This leads to individual growth as they learn to expand their strengths and capacities by trying to achieve the stipulated goals and objectives.
What makes it a difficult task
Though delegating sounds easy, if you don’t often find yourself delegating work, it can feel like a difficult task. Some people find themselves overburdened trying to do it all by themselves. They get overwhelmed in the process of ensuring that it meets their standards. Though sometimes they may get successful, it however isn’t always realistic to think that you can do everything.
However, many people are reluctant to delegate especially if they are new to the leadership role. There are many barriers that hold them back from doing so. Like for instance, they might feel that they are shirking responsibility by passing work in to someone else. Sometimes it is their perfectionist tendencies and fear of failure that doesn’t make them let go of certain tasks.
They trust their own abilities more than those of others. Some leaders don’t trust others to execute important tasks. May be they think others don’t yet have the needed skill, or that they don’t think that they can perform to their expectations.
Many find delegating as waste of their time as well as other resources. A common notion that delegating requires more time and resources in terms of training, keeping track or providing support. Belief that it takes longer to teach someone else how to do a task than to just do it by themselves.
Letting go of things can be a challenging task for certain leaders, be it their identity or authority. When people invest their own expertise and skill set into managing something, they tend to associate their identity and self-worth with their work. So they may avoid delegating as they may feel uncomfortable to transfer their authority or responsibility to others.
Related: Is your team efficient or effective
Ways to delegate effectively
No matter how efficient you get, unless you improve your delegating skills, you remain less effective as a leader. Delegating is more than just dictating what to be done. It has more to do with shaping your ideas, having a clear perspective and communicating them in a supporting way. And it also depends on how decisively and wisely you assign tasks to those around you.
Whom to delegate
Choose the right people. Part of being good delegating leadership is to understand teams’ strengths and weaknesses. This doesn’t mean that you look for people who can do it. You also have to look for their level of motivation, skills, competence, capacity and interest in taking up the tasks you want to assign. Rather than giving the same set of people important projects, an effective delegator gives a chance to everyone on the team to do more challenging tasks.
What to delegate
However, there is a risk that certain people can potentially delegate too much. This might result in your teams getting exhausted and confused. As a result, they either stall on the given work and lack motivation or miss deadlines. Also, most people aren’t sure which tasks they should and which they shouldn’t. Here are some things to consider while delegating tasks.
- Tasks that are less time consuming, but make a difference to the desired output or those that add up overtime. They must be challenging to help them learn and grow.
- Tasks that are measurable in terms of their outputs. Like for instance, a task can be completed and whether or not you can assess after completion.
- Tasks based on relevance. Certain time-consuming tasks can be broken down into smaller chunks and delegating portions of the work to others. These can be further decided upon how important is the assigned task to the team and to the organisation as a whole.
- Tasks that don’t require expertise. Do you have any tasks that could be easily done by others. Things that you can teach someone else to complete. While assigning such tasks, it is important to consider who has the motivation to learn, and how it might benefit the person by learning to do so.
- Tasks that you lack skills in. There are many areas where you might be lacking your skill set. It is better to delegate those to someone who is more equipped to do the work. Consider asking yourself, who has the skills to complete the work? or Is there someone who might be skilled enough that you haven’t considered before?
- Tasks that are time-sensitive. Most of the times, it would be the case that you won’t have time to handle all of the tasks. And some things can be time-sensitive. Delegate tasks that you won’t have time to complete doing them all on your own.
- Tasks that can be performed autonomously. While delegating tasks, it is important to consider whether the person or team has the ability and freedom to make important decisions. Considering what key decision will need to be made or whether or not they have authority to make them can help you delegate tasks to the right people.
What to provide
Context around the task delegated. When you get too involved you tend to micromanage. Give them the context about what is to be accomplished, what is at risk, how they fit into the big picture. Letting them know what is unique about the task and providing them reasons as to why it matters increases the task relevance. Once you have defined the work, clarify how it aligns with their ability or skill set.
Right resources. Effective leaders ensure that their team has right resources when tasked with a job or project. Providing them with required information, tools, space, time and support they need to complete the task ensures timely completion.
Freedom to make decisions. Trusting their abilities to make decisions and take the necessary steps to complete the work empowers them. If they are not fully empowered to make decisions, they end up reporting at every level, stalling the work, wait for your inputs or approval.
Feedback. Knowing when to correct, coach, step in and step back is valuable part of delegating. Communicate your expectations, and give them constructive feedback. This helps them to improve when they make few mistakes along the way.
Do you see yourself as a ‘do as I say’ leader or as more of a delegator who trusts in terms of work done?
How good are you at assessing your team’s strengths and weaknesses?
Do you ensure right criteria is set in terms of task measurability?
How often do you delegate tasks that challenge your team to learn and grow?
Do you give them freedom to make their own decisions or do you micromanage.
It takes time to adjust to the shift from doing to leading and to lead effectively, it is important to know how and what of delegating. However, you won’t always have perfect alignment when it comes to delegating work. Even people with high leadership skills can run into problems sometimes. However, if practiced and done well, you can increase trust, improve productivity and make sure right people are given the tasks that best suit them. It will help maximise your resources and frees up your time to focus on right priorities. And empower and encourage your team to learn and develop in the due process.
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