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How Do You Know When You Need To Delegate?

delegation Aug 25, 2021

Last blog I shared a story of how I failed at delegating early in my career. As it turns out, I ended up humbly accepting the resignation of my employee because of my rookie mistakes. Before I hired her replacement, I knew I needed to make a few adjustments. Delegating is more than giving an assignment, it’s a partnership. I had been only thinking about my side of the partnership.

Delegation isn’t like a parasite that will harm the host. You know, like when you dump all the things that you don’t enjoy on someone else so those things can suck the life out of them rather than you. Instead, it's a mutually beneficial relationship where both become better as a result. To see what this looks like, let’s explore both sides of effective delegation.

“Delegating means letting others become the experts and hence the best.”

~ Timothy Firnstahl

How do I know I “need” to delegate?

As leaders we have likely heard more than once that we “should” delegate. Most leaders I know have a full plate, so it makes sense to get some of those things off the plate. Even moreso, delegation allows leaders to focus on what they do best and what will help the organization grow. Delegation also taps into the team’s capabilities to achieve growth goals. So, step back and ask yourself a few questions to see if you need to start delegating more.

  • Where are you a bottleneck to process or decision making?
  • Who else is capable of doing what needs to be done? 
  • How is growth being limited because you are already maxing out your capacity?

How do I know my team “needs me” to delegate?

You don’t want delegation to “suck the life” out of others like a parasite. Therefore, nurturing the other side of that partnership is noticing when others need you to delegate. In Gallup studies, limited career growth opportunities and poor job fit are two of the top 5 reasons employees leave their job.  A delegation conversation can help you find out what energizes them and what kinds of responsibilities “fit” with who they are AND what the team needs done. Spend some time with your people and notice a few things:

  • What skills could they utilize to benefit the team or project?
  • What special assignments could build “on-the-job” experience?
  • What experiences could set them up for what the organization will need next?

Many of the small businesses and small nonprofits that I work with don’t have the traditional “ladder to climb” so delegation can be a key strategy to retain talent even without climbing the next rung in the ladder because personal development is valued. 

Next Steps

Let’s get a little practical and tactical on deciding if now is the time to delegate.

  1. Grab a piece of paper and divide it into two columns
  2. In one column answer the first three questions on what you might need to delegate.
  3. In the second column answer the second three questions on what they need you to delegate.
  4. Where does the list overlap? Notice the win-win that might be possible -- where delegation will benefit you and where they might also benefit from your delegation.
  5. Experiment and take a few items from the overlap list and discuss them with the team.  Gather their insights and obtain their buy-in and give it a try.

Just knowing that you need to delegate a few things, doesn’t make delegation easier. You will also need to know what is the right stuff to delegate and what are the things you need to keep. Come back for the next blog to read how to decide what tasks to delegate!

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