“The great leaders are like the best conductors – they reach beyond the notes to reach the magic in the players.” –Blaine Lee
Many managers and supervisors find delegating difficult. This can be for many reasons – they like to be in control, they want all the glory, they don’t trust their staff. Sometimes it is because they feel like they are doing something bad to the person receiving the task.
Particularly for managers in this last group, it might be time to think about this a little differently. Delegating is not about you. Although you may change your workload through the act of delegating, this is not the real reason you should be delegating. You should be delegating to help develop your employees and to build stronger teams. You should be delegating to motivate and inspire confidence. You should be delegating to help with succession planning. Done well, delegating is actually more about the employee than the manager.
So how to you delegate without making it about you?
- Understand your team and individuals within the team – what are the needs and desires of the group; what motivates individuals, what are their career aspirations, what are their strengths
- Identify tasks or projects that will play to an individual’s strengths or will enable them to develop skills whilst working on something they enjoy
- Explain the task / project clearly: objectives, timeframes, their role and why you think they are the right person for the job. Try to make this last aspect as motivational and positive as possible e.g. “I want you involved as you are excellent at developing strong relationships across departments. That is critical to this project as there is a lot of cross-functional work needed. The project will also expose you to senior leaders and raise your profile with them.”
- Check in with the employee – do they understand the project and their role; do they think it sounds like a good opportunity to be involved in; do the timeframes sound reasonable. Discuss further as required
- Ask what support they might need from you and outline any progress checks you expect
Of course, there may be some tasks that you struggle to make motivational. In this instance, re-challenge yourself to identify an opportunity for the specific person you have in mind – remember, it’s not about your interests or development! If the task truly is unlikely to be interesting, yet still requires delegation, then be as honest and positive as possible e.g. “I’m asking you to do this because I know that you will do a good job with this and it’s an important part of our team’s role.” Try not to use the reason of “I’m too swamped to do this” as employees are often left feeling ‘dumped on’. Obviously every situation is different so use your judgement on outlining the reasons.
More often than not, if you know your team well, delegating for development will inspire and engage employees. If you think about delegating as a way to develop and motivate, rather than as a way to clear your own desk, you might just be surprised with the subsequent results!
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