5 Strategies to Master Delegation and Transition from Doing to Leading
To advance in your career or grow your business beyond a one-person show, you eventually have to learn to get things done through other people. Where early in your career, or as an early founder, you added value by what you did personally, to advance into leadership or to become a significant employer of others, your focus must shift from doing to leading.
Even if you like the idea of “keeping your hand in things,” over time, that approach can stifle growth, de-motivate employees, lead to burnout and send the signal that you are not ready for more senior roles or to lead a larger business.
“The upper limit of what’s possible will increase only with each collaborator you empower to contribute their best work to your shared priorities,” writes Jesse Sostrin, Ph.D., a Director in PwC’s Leadership Coaching Center of Excellence. “To raise the ceiling of your leadership potential, you need to extend your presence through the actions of others.”
Delegation gets personal
What an exciting concept — raising the ceiling of your leadership potential! This idea hits especially close to home for me right now as our team has recently made the strategic decision to take Monica Motivates, LLC international with the launch of our Europe, Middle East and Africa Business Unit (EMEA BU) and opening of our London office.
We are committed to closing the opportunity gap and driving economic inclusion globally and it’s exciting to see these efforts take shape. Of course, one person cannot be in four locations at once or meet all the needs of the many multinational companies and entrepreneurs who need support to help them develop overlooked and underutilized talent. That takes a team of people committed to the same objectives — and a leader capable of “. . . extending your presence through the actions of others,” according to Sostrin.
Here are five suggestions he and others have for becoming an effective delegator and better leader.
- Start with your reasons. In the very first conversation you have with a team member when you ask them to perform a specific task or head up a more complex effort, you need to share why this activity matters to you and the organization. When people understand how an action fits into the bigger picture, they are more motivated to contribute and far better positioned to make decisions and trouble shoot along the way. Sharing your personal why can be especially inspiring.
- Define the desired outcome. You know exactly how you’d tackle the project, but you may not always do a good job of letting others know how you define success. To help others succeed and to enable you to let go, make sure required approaches and critical outcomes are clearly outlined up front. Then clarify that all involved are aligned. “Before anyone starts working on a project, they should know what they need to complete and by when, including the metrics you’ll use to measure the success of their work,” says Harvard Business School (HBS) Professor and former CEO & Chair of Amgen, Kevin Sharer, in HBS Online.
- Temper your involvement. Delegation does not mean “hands off” or even, “Just give me a holler when you’re finished,” in most cases. But it doesn’t mean micromanaging every step of the process either. To find the right balance, you need to read the situation, the skills and preferences of the person taking on the task and the challenges within the environment. Open communication will help make this dance a smooth one; you don’t want to step on toes or leave someone without any idea what to do next. Clarify up front checkpoints that work for both of you.
- Reserve the right to say no, or perhaps. Delegation is an effective way to grow your impact, not a magic wand to take on more than you can manage. Remember, delegation is about less hands-on work but more For high-priority opportunities within your own wheelhouse, you might commit to them and carve out time to engage personally. For other opportunities that don’t fall directly into your priorities or skillset, you might consider them only if you can identify others who can carry them forward through their direct involvement. Of course, for projects that don’t align with goals or require time and expertise that don’t currently exist within the team, your best answer may be no, at least for now.
- Direct credit where it’s due. When others take on significant work and responsibility, it’s only right to give them credit for their achievements. When you make it clear in person and in public how the team member contributed, you will encourage more engagement, commitment and wins moving forward.
The great news about becoming a more effective delegator is that it helps you grow your impact while contributing to the development of others. What a powerful and inspiring twinset of reasons to raise your proficiency as an effective delegator.