Pick up any book on workplace leadership, and you’re likely to find a chapter extolling the power of delegation. If done effectively, delegating can lead your team to new heights and drive organizational success. Too often, though, we fall short.
To succeed, one must overcome the initial hurdles tied to delegation while ensuring meaningful follow-up.
To illustrate, consider the story of Jane. A seasoned manager with years of experience, Jane has honed her proficiency in her current role. Recently entrusted with overseeing junior staff, Jane’s superior hopes that she’ll pass on her experience by entrusting her juniors with specific tasks. Jane is initially hesitant to follow through with this request. She has grown comfortable with her responsibilities and fears giving them up. Jane worries that relinquishing tasks to the junior staff may render her role expendable, and she is concerned for her job security.
Jane’s apprehension is a sentiment shared by many. As humans, we trust first in what we know, and we avoid stepping into the unknown. That’s why we tend to focus first on the tasks that come easily to us and can shy away from exploring new opportunities. Yet, beneath the surface, delegation presents a dual advantage: it gives those under you the chance to develop new skills while allowing you to enhance your own growth.
Jane’s primary fear is becoming replaceable. However, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. She can use her newfound capacity as a springboard to learn a new skill or to tackle assignments outside her current scope. By not delegating, Jane is inadvertently limiting her own growth. When properly utilized, delegation is a win/win for all parties involved. Jane and the junior staff open themselves up to promotions within the company. The company also benefits by promoting from within, retaining staff who are familiar with the company’s values and culture while avoiding the hassles that come with external recruiting.
Now that Jane understands the value of delegation, she’s finally ready to pass on certain tasks to junior team members. Delegating isn’t just about passing off tasks, though. Jane must be involved throughout the process to ensure her subordinates complete the tasks effectively.
That begins with clearly communicating what is expected and providing all the resources necessary to succeed. As described in the example, Jane is an expert at what she does. She already intuitively knows precisely what needs to be done. However, she must be careful not to assume that her team members will possess this knowledge. She needs to walk through the project with them at each level.
Regular check-ins can offer support and provide a safe place for questions to arise. It’s important, however, to strike a balance between support and micro-management. Trusting them to navigate challenges independently is essential to the learning experience, even if that means allowing them to falter at times.
When mistakes that require correction are made, Jane may think it best to fix them herself. It would seem quicker than having her teammate rectify the error. While that may be true, it will prove more beneficial to have invested the time in guiding her teammate through the issues in the long run. If your team members understand what went wrong and how to fix it, they will be better able to avoid those mistakes in the future.
Once her team has completed the task, feedback is essential. Jane must ensure her feedback is constructive, highlighting achievements while pointing out areas for future growth. At the same time, Jane should also ask for feedback for herself. This will help in her own development as she seeks to improve her delegation skills.
Delegation is a tool that needs to be managed appropriately. As Jane’s story illustrates, the challenges to delegating continue once the initial hurdle of handing off work is completed. It’s important to set clear expectations while providing guidance and support when mistakes are made. Following these steps will enhance your leadership and pave the way for organizational success through effective delegation.
This post was contributed by Avisar Associate Manager Caleb Barkowsky.
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