I worked with a Chief Operating Officer of a company who was stymied by a project that kept showing up on his to-do list week after week and month after month. He was great a strategizing up front about the project but couldn’t get it off the ground; it was clear that he wanted it done though. In my coaching with him I asked if there was someone on his team that he could delegate all or a portion of it to. He sat back with a pensive look and told me that he had considered it previously but then retorted that the person he was thinking of was too busy. So of course I asked him to ask the person as soon as possible and see what happened. Incredibly the person he asked was actually looking for a new project to sink her teeth into and right there a delegator was born.
Most of us know conceptually what delegation is and what value it has, but there are many reasons why as leaders we don’t delegate (and they may be true!): being unaware that you can delegate, being too busy to make it happen, not trusting others, it takes too much of your time to train others, thinking you can do it better than anyone else, assumptions about others’ workloads, fear of losing control, and not wanting to look weak or incompetent by others, just to name a few. All of these reasons however can be brought to light, inspected and worked with. To maximize your ability to delegate, you must get intimate with your reasons for not delegating and challenge these areas.
One way to expose your delegation challenges is to take a look at your recurring to-do list to see if there is anything there for you to pass on to others and to see if it exposes one or some of the aforementioned reasons. Delegation is different than procrastination however, something I will expose in a later article. Another way is to create a list of everything that you do in your role as a leader and to assess if some of those are the best use of your time and/or talents, or not. If some items don’t make the grade, consider passing them off to someone who could possibly do them. One other way is to work with a coach or mentor to challenge your relationship to delegation.
If you decide to give delegation a go, and have found someone to delegate to, consider the following tips to make the task or project go as smoothly as possible: make the expectation or deliverable of what you expect crystal clear, put a time limit on it, make yourself open/approachable to questions about the task/project, and consider periodic check-ins without falling into the tendency to become a micromanager.
Delegation takes practice, but with time can bring a big sense of relief to you and leave you in a position to be more strategic about your organization or team. And as you think more strategically about the people on your team and what their strengths and abilities are, delegation will become more natural and frequent with time.