Early in my leadership career, I saw delegation more like giving an assignment. It turns out that the “class assignment” model didn’t work very well for me in the story I started in my first blog in this series. Ultimately my demise was the tension between what I wanted and what she needed that for a time felt a bit like a “tug-of-war”.
When delegation turns into a tug-of-war somebody will end up in the mud and the momentum of growth will be lost. Seeing delegation like a partnership rather than a quick way to get tasks off your plate creates a whole new dynamic. And probably far less messy than a tug-of-war.
In this blog series, we have been talking about when to delegate, what to delegate and today, to whom so you delegate. How do you know if you are delegating to the right person? Start by asking yourself and your people questions in four key areas needed for effective delegation that is less like a tug-of-war and more like a partnership.
Notice who already reflects the abilities needed in either their experience or their talents. Identify people who are capable of doing the tasks you need so you can avoid reverse delegation where the tasks end up getting returned to you. Think through what tasks to delegate and what to keep and adjust based on your team’s capabilities.
- Who on the team can do this better than you? (natural talent, experience)
- What activities are they currently doing that reflect an aptitude for the new tasks?
- How have they demonstrated the relevant gifts and talents required for the delegated tasks?
Step back and glance at the bigger picture of what impact delegation will have on a person and those around them. Delegating can often have a cascading effect that requires additional shifts on the team or in the organization.
- What is their capacity to take on new things?
- How might they create the needed capacity by freeing up some of their workload through delegation?
- As a leader, what will be the new things you can attend to if you successfully delegate?
Assess who is already set up for success with the resources to accomplish the tasks. People will need: authority to make decisions, access to budget, equipment, software and possibly strategic relationships across the organization. Simply, assess what resources are already in place and what is needed to succeed with new responsibilities.
- What resources and authority do they need to take on this responsibility?
- How do they need to be trained and supported in order to take this new responsibility on?
- What key relationships have they already built that will help them succeed in new tasks? (i.e. mentor, cross functional relationships, general interpersonal savviness)
Evaluate the level of trust in your relationship. It’s important to invest in building trusting relationships even before you look to delegate tasks. Quick pathways to build trust can be short term projects or temporary assignments that give people the opportunity to develop skills or demonstrate their ability. Your team will also learn that you can be trusted to give them assignments without micromanaging or taking the assignment back. It paves the way for a fruitful delegation partnership.
- Who is a trusted partner on your team already?
- What are ways that you can quickly build trust in the areas you want to delegate?
- How can you increase your level of openness when it comes to allowing them to do things in their own way?
“Imparting trust, the real meaning of delegation, is a powerful thing.”~Scott Berkun
It is important for a leader to go through these four sets of questions to delegate well. Equally as important is having the delegation conversation with the people on your team to assess what is the right fit for YOU and for THEM. Great delegation is not an opportunity to “dump”, instead it is an opportunity to “develop”. Whether you’re ready to delegate or not, you can continue to nurture a relationship that is ready to receive new responsibilities when the time comes.
What if you look around and everybody is at capacity? Or, what if there isn’t anyone on the team that has the capabilities you are looking for? Then, it’s time to look at alternative solutions. Delegation is not your only option.
- Consider what you can stop doing and focus your work on what has the most impact.
- Consider creating a new role as you think through what you would like to delegate and what the team needs.
- Consider outsourcing to another group that has the expertise, experience and reputation to take on the tasks you need done.
Delegation done well involves so much more than assigning tasks. In the next few blogs we will talk about how to turn delegation into a development opportunity and some of the nuts and bolts of handing off new responsibilities in the delegation process. Need a strategy a little sooner? Set up a FREE 30 minute strategy session and we can design your delegation conversation together.