I’ll bet that if there is one thing standing between you being a more effective leader, it’s delegation.
How do I know?
Because I’ve seen this over and over again with senior leaders I’ve worked with, from Fortune 100 companies to top tier consulting firms. Sure, we all think we are good at delegation (or many of us do), but are we really. . .?
Maybe you’re delegating right now and it’s just not working as well as it could – finding that you have to “take it back” from your staff when the job isn’t done right. Or maybe you’re still struggling to let go and not delegating as much as you should – and probably don’t even realize it.
Regardless of where you are, I’ve found there is always opportunity for improvement and it ultimately starts with changing mindsets that are preventing you from letting go.
Here are some of the most common barriers and suggestions for how to correct the thinking:
1. Roadblock: “I’m the only person who can do this,”
Shift: “I have faith that the right person could do this.”
Sure, you’re great at handling all the details, negotiating client or customer requests, and reviewing proposals with a fine-tooth comb. But is that your true zone of genius? Is there some portion of what you currently spend your time on that can be delegated, so that over time someone else can take over the entire project? Can someone else take on the tactical while you oversee progress on the whole?
For my “overworked and overwhelmed” clients, I sometimes take them through an exercise to examine a typical two week period and analyze how they spend their time. Just like counting calories, it’s amazing what you uncover when you inspect your most precious resource (time, and how you use it). We find plenty of opportunities to delegate things they just assumed they needed to handle.
For more on how to do this, get this free guide that walks you through the process
For instance – if you have a weekly staff meeting and you, as the leader are the only one putting together the agenda and facilitating it every week . . .WHY?
This is easily something to delegate on a rotating basis to your team members – and a great development opportunity for them. Their role is to solicit feedback from you and others on what the topics should be and practice facilitating the meeting to accomplish those objectives. Be sure to give them feedback on their performance to truly make it a growth opportunity.
Another example — if you are the one drafting development plans for your direct reports and driving that process. . . WHY?
Have your direct reports lead the process by creating a draft first (or after an initial conversation with you) and then provide suggestions and edits. They will be far more engaged in actually doing the work to develop if they have had a hand it its creation from the start.
There are many more you can find on your own if you examine how you spend your time, and ask the question: am I really doing the things that ONLY I CAN DO? I recommend doing this with a coach or colleague. . sometimes, you just need someone else to push you to explore delegating the things you are holding on to.
2. Roadblock: “It’s faster if I do it myself,”
Shift: “I know I can teach someone to do this.”
When you first hand over a task, is it a bit painful to watch an employee labor over something that you could do in 30 seconds? You bet!
But it’s worth the initial time investment. When we make the the effort to teach delegates, we’re making an investment in ourselves and our company. Weathering the early frustrations of handing over a task will pay dividends in the months and years to come by reducing the number of fewer back-and-forth emails and ensuring faster, higher quality results.
Bottom line: a little short term pain will be totally worth the long-term gain.
Try breaking the task into stages to make it easier and delegate a portion of it at a time. Provide examples of similar outputs so your delegate has a model – and share how the current project is like or not like that. And finally, be gracious with first-time mistakes! You made mistakes, too, along the way and they are the best learning tool for what not to do in the future.
3. Roadblock: “My delegate has to do this exactly the same way I do it and exactly as well.”
Shift: “Different isn’t wrong and done is better than perfect.”
It’s tough when you get a project back and it’s, well. . .fine. . .but not great. Knowing when good is good enough is an important leadership skill to develop. Just because someone took a different approach than you might have does not mean another path isn’t also potentially valid.
Here’s where the 70 percent rule comes in. This is well explained in this great Inc. article:
Put simply, if the person the CEO would like to perform the task is able to do it at least 70 percent as well as he can, he should delegate it. Is it frustrating that the task won’t be done with the same degree of perfection or perceived perfection that the CEO himself could achieve? Sure! But let go of perfection. Is it easier said than done? Yes, certainly. But there is no place for perfection when it comes to delegation. The upside for the CEO is that he doesn’t need to spend any time on the task–zero. The “return on time” doesn’t spend on that task is infinite, in addition to gaining that same time to invest in a higher impact project.
As a leader, there is nothing more important than improving your delegation skills and it all starts with shifting your mindset! Your career growth depends on your ability to free up capacity so you can take on new projects, while building the skill-sets of those on your team to support you.
Want to sharpen your skills to be a better delegator?