Most leaders are doers. Doing is great but it takes away time from thinking and strategy. To move from doing to leading well, leaders need to delegate or ‘give away’.
Become a pro at ‘giving away’ both the mundane and the growth tasks. You will soon make space for thinking, innovation, and expansion. How you involve others and grow others decides the upper limit to your leadership impact.
John C Maxwell, the author of Developing the Leaders Around You, said “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.”
To delegate, follow these 7 steps:
STEP 1. List out routine and growth tasks
A two-column approach helps, one for routine tasks and another for growth tasks. You can plan for all routine tasks to go off your plate first. You can also choose which growth tasks to give away now and which ones later. This also helps you plan how you build and grow your team’s competence. I have given away all routine tasks of accounting, invoicing, and reports. Growth tasks like social media, business development, client servicing, and innovation can be delegated once you have competent team members.
STEP 2. Get clear on task and responsibility
We can delegate at the level of task or the level of responsibility. Tasks may have clear deliverables and are a smaller subset of ‘responsibility’. Delegating a responsibility puts thinking outcomes as well as execution onto the other. This is great for a team member who looks for such a challenge. For example, I can delegate the task of creating a flyer, or I can delegate the responsibility of creating a strategy for a new product. These two are very different levels of delegation. Make an assessment of your team and hire staff to whom you can delegate at the responsibility level.
STEP 3. Pick the right person
Routine tasks need a lower level of competence, while growth tasks need a higher level of capability. While selecting the right person, it is important to give value to their competence, interests, and their position within the team. Senior team members do not feel satisfied with routine tasks.
Some individuals who are not given decision-making authority or responsibility do not feel satisfied. Other members feel motivated by the complexity of the problem they have. When there is a mismatch in their need and the quality of what you delegate, it will impact a person’s motivation.
STEP 4. Plan the what and why
Delegation is a conversation. It needs the leader to plan the why of the task as well the reasons for giving it to the specific person. Plan your conversation as it allows you to think of the outcomes you need. Think through the standards and quality as well as timelines. For example: for a new product, the initial delegation conversation needs to include the why we create it, data on the market, and what outcome we need. If I am delegating at the level of responsibility I must say what is the goal, who are the competitors, the USP of the product, the process, etc.
So thinking ahead and doing one’s homework makes the delegation conversation rich.
STEP 5. Rhythms
This is a vital aspect to discuss. How much and how often will you connect for, planning, monitoring, and feedback? What checkpoints are important and why? Some team members need this spelled out clearly and this allows you to not be a micromanager. I had a regular rhythm of meetings planned with different teams. This helped them plan and they look forward to that time and space to thrash out issues. This is the lubricant that keeps the delegation journey easy.
STEP 6. Doing the conversation
Once the above 5 steps are clear, it is time to move ahead. Make the meeting dialogue and use the structure of your plan to guide you.
Before you end the conversation, check that the individual is clear on all aspects of the timeline and quality. Show your openness to support and be available as and when the person needs to loop back. Ask if the individual sees the delegated task to be in line with their growth ideas. Assess their motivation to go ahead. Ask ‘How does this sound to you?’ ‘Any doubts I can clarify?’ ‘Does this fit what you are looking to learn and grow with?’
STEP 7. Seeing yourself as a catalyst
This may be the most useful step of all! It is an identity shift for some of us and a worthy one. We need to appreciate ourselves for delegating to create the space, time, and energy to grow ourselves as leaders. We do this for the bigger impact we wish to create — being a catalyst. The delegation will create your second line of leaders. Thereby, you show up as a leader who grows individuals and teams!
What other aspects have you considered for delegation?
Is there more that you can add to my list?