It seems delegation is one of the things we find most difficult to master as we climb the corporate ladder. During our early careers much of our success is measured by our outputs, the things we actually produce ourselves, whether they be projects completed, academic papers published, lectures prepared and delivered or, in manufacturing, widgets produced. As we progress into management and leadership, our success is measured by the success of the group of people we manage. So why is it often so difficult to delegate responsibilities to others in our team?
One reason may be perfectionism. When we believe that no-one but we ourselves can can be trusted to do a job properly, we may be unwilling to delegate, in case things go wrong. But how will anyone else ever learn if we don’t trust them to try? That doesn’t mean we breathe down their necks and micro-manage them either. When you delegate responsibility, you must also delegate authority, but if you are to do so effectively, you must set clear guidelines and put in place clear and well understood reporting and feedback mechanisms.
Another may reason may be fear of not being seen as achieving things ourselves. However, the more strategic our role, the less we should actually be doing and the more we should be thinking ahead, planning, and supporting others in carrying out the the tasks our work group needs to complete.
Sharing power is a means of developing and motivating people. By analysing the qualities needed to bring a particular task or project to successful completion you should be able to choose an employee with the skills, strengths and interests needed to succeed. You are literally setting that person up for success, with all the benefits to their self-esteem that brings. Delegation can be a key development tool.
When you delegate, make sure that both you and the person to whom you are delegating have:
- mutual clarity about what the project involves
- mutual clarity about what is expected in the form of outcomes or deliverables
- mutual clarity about the level of autonomy you are giving
- mutual clarity about time scales and reporting mechanisms
- mutual clarity about priorities
Bill Gates said “Develop your people to do their jobs better than you can. Transfer your skills to them. This is exciting, but it can be threatening to a manager who worries that he is training his replacement. Smart managers like to see their employees increase their responsibilities because it frees the managers to tackle new or undone tasks”
I hope you’re a smart manager. You have the future in your hands.