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The Art of Delegation

Strong leaders recognize delegation as a strength and know how to delegate effectively and often to help their team members grow their professional skills and experiences.

Yet it’s all too easy, even for good leaders, to want to take care of things themselves, leaning on the adage that “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” Yet this attitude slights team members and takes valuable time away from the strategic thinking that is the cornerstone of the leader’s role. It can also cause stress, make the leader unavailable to share insights and answer questions, and reduce the time available to actually lead their team. Initiatives can also lose steam when a leader is taking on too many projects and their attention is spread too thinly.

Rather than taking on tactical execution, good leaders find ways to empower others to achieve and contribute, watching their priorities come to fruition through the actions of others. In the process, they build trust and strengthen their teams as they share ownership, while also often enabling projects to be completed more efficiently.

Four Steps to Successful Delegation

Step 1: Decide Whether to Own or Delegate
When considering any project, a leader needs to decide whether to retain responsibility or delegate it. In making this decision, consider whether you have the time and skills to effectively contribute, or whether someone on your team possesses these attributes more strongly, or could be upskilled to take on the project. Also consider whether the work is strategic or tactical, and will it develop you professionally in your leadership role.

Step 2: Share Your Reasons for Delegation
Once you’ve decided to delegate, give meaningful reasons for your team’s involvement. Explain how their contributions will impact the project and how the project will impact the business. Highlight the teams’ collective knowledge, skills and abilities to handle the work. When identifying specific individuals to take on tasks and responsibilities, explain why they’re being selected, including their bandwidth availability, their skills and the development opportunities that will help them grow in their job.

Step 3: Gain Commitment
Tasking someone with a project or task doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be pleased with the result. Instead, take the time to:

This will reduce confusion and potential dissension or dissatisfaction and make project success far more likely.

Step 4: Define Your Engagement Level
When delegating to your team, you need to ensure that they have the appropriate level of support from you, without micro-managing. Striking the right balance will give you confidence in the project’s progress while demonstrating confidence in your team. Deciding how and how often you’ll be involved in the project should reflect the task’s complexity, your team’s experience, and the degree of outside resources the team will need to engage.

Preparing Yourself to Delegate

While it’s generally accepted that strategic thought should be a leader’s priority, on a recent webinar the majority of participants said they only spend 20% of their time on this critical work. Delegation will create the time for this higher level thinking.

As a first step, review your calendar for the next two weeks to identify meetings that can be delegated, shortened or combined. Then identify other job tasks you can delegate, transferring more responsibilities to your team. Use the newly found time to jump into strategy mode and to develop your team and yourself.

Recognizing Emerging Leaders

In order to delegate a task, of course, you need someone to do the work you’re delegating. Understanding your team members and their different attributes will enable you to identify the right person – or people – for each task or project.

If you don’t already know which of these personality types you have on your team, assessment tools like DISC, StrengthsFinders and Meyers Briggs can lend deep insight into individuals’ natural skills and abilities.

Finding Delegation Opportunities

In addition to freeing up your time to focus on strategy rather than tactical execution, effective delegation helps grow your team members by assigning them special projects that stretch their skills, supported with mentoring and coaching through your engagement with the project. From letting them lead a customer call or run a quarterly sales meeting, to including them on company-wide projects, to assigning them a department project that fulfills their personal goals, the options are as varied as your department and organization.

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