Delegating – 3 Tips to Delegate Effectively
For delegation to be effective though it has to be done properly. These three tips should get you started on the right path to delegating effectively.

Delegating – 3 Tips to Delegate Effectively

We’re always talking about how busy we are. There’s such a thing as being too busy, especially when we have a team around us who can help. When I was in the Air Force, staying late at work had become a badge of honor. The truth is, people’s personal lives, relationships, and health suffered. I don’t mean to say that there aren’t times that being busy is appropriate. When there was something really urgent, I worked a lot of nights and weekends.  That’s what you sign up for when you’re in the military. In a lot of cases, though, delegating could have helped out immensely. For delegation to be effective though it has to be done properly. These three tips should get you started on the right path to delegating effectively.

Delegating Tip #1: Set Clear Expectations

When you choose to delegate, clearly identify the problem you want solved. Also, define when you want it completed and the parameters of a successful solution. Clear and detailed are not the same thing, though. When you place restrictions on the solution, you tie your team’s hands. If you tell them exactly how you want them to solve the problem, you may as well do it yourself. This defeats the purpose of delegating. Figure out what your deal breakers are and communicate those clearly. Then let your team figure out the solution based on that guidance.

Delegating Tip #2: Delegate Authority as well as Responsibility

A lot of new leaders and managers forget to do this. To delegate effectively, you need to give your team authority to act without getting approval on every little thing. Making every decision yourself ties their hands and takes up time that you were trying to get back. One approach is to decide ahead of time what decisions you feel like you absolutely have to keep for yourself and then let the team make any other decisions. If it’s a long-term project over the course of a few weeks or months, you can schedule in some “vector-checks”. This allows you to understand their thought process and offer advice so they don’t head off in the wrong direction over time.

Delegating Tip #3: Let Your Team Make Mistakes

Every time you delegate it’s an opportunity to grow your team and their leadership skills. One of the ways that people learn best is by trying new things, making mistakes and correcting them. While I think we’d all prefer our team didn’t make mistakes, it’s an important part of the learning process. Better that they make mistakes now when the stakes are low and we are there to help them. This also requires a commitment on our part to be patient when things don’t go as planned. When delegating, consider the stakes of the project and how much tolerance you’ll have for mistakes. This will help you choose who to delegate to and how much authority to give them.

If you are doing more supervising than you’d like, try these tips next time an important task comes up. Setting clear expectations, consciously deciding how much authority to give your team, and letting them learn from mistakes will set you up for long-term success as a leader!

Many of us often feel like we are prisoners to some of the day-to-day aspects of our jobs. Almost every day, I find myself talking about how much time administrative tasks take away from the aspects of my business that really excite me. We know that as leaders we need to be delegating, not just to free up our time, but to develop our team members' leadership skills as well. Delegating is an important skill to have, but to do it effectively we need to be truly empowering others.

Empowering Others to Get Your Time Back

Many of us often feel like we are prisoners to some of the day-to-day aspects of our jobs. Almost every day, I find myself talking about how much time administrative tasks take away from the aspects of my business that really excite me. We know that as leaders we need to be delegating, not just to free up our time, but to develop our team members’ leadership skills as well. Delegating is an important skill to have, but to do it effectively we need to be truly empowering others.

Considerations Before Empowering Others

In order to empower others successfully, we need to think deliberately through a few questions before delegating. If we aren’t thorough about setting expectations, we might find that we’re spending more time supervising instead of focusing on the priorities we wanted to free time up for in the first place. Here are 6 questions we can ask ourselves before assigning priorities to one of our team members to help ensure that we’re freeing ourselves from the task and not creating an even bigger time sink:

  • What is the task, project or responsibility we want them to take on?
  • To what degree are we going to hold them accountable?
  • What resources will they need to accomplish the task?
  • What decisions are we willing to let them make on their own?
  • How much autonomy are we willing to give them?
  • How will we measure progress and success?

Trust is the Key to Empowering Others

It quickly becomes apparent that empowering others depends on trust. If we don’t know them well or trust is low, we’ll be reluctant to give them more autonomy and authority. If we have a strong relationship with them, we’ll be much more willing to let them run without a lot of supervision.

To reap the benefits of empowering others, we need to build trust with our team members from the very beginning. Waiting until we are task-saturated before delegating guarantees we’ll be spending more time supervising than focusing on more important priorities. Empowering a team member today starts freeing up our own time as well as builds strong leaders for the future.

developing a culture of initiative on your team where your team members solve problems and address situations before they come to you us a great way to keep these monkeys off of your back. Every problem that a member of your team can solve without having to come to you for guidance is one less monkey for you to handle.

Initiative & Keeping Monkeys off Your Back – Video Guide

One of the most widely read Harvard Business Review Articles ever written is from back in 1999 and talks about how leaders often assume problems that members of their team should be taking care of. If you’d like to read it, you can find it here. The article has a lot of great rules to implement for what to do as a leader if someone tries to let one of these monkeys jump off of their back and on to yours, but developing a culture of initiative on your team where your team members solve problems and address situations before they come to you us a great way to keep these monkeys off of your back. Every problem that a member of your team can solve without having to come to you for guidance is one less monkey for you to handle.

Ways to Develop Initiative

  • First, don’t just assign your team members tasks or duties, give them problems to solve or areas of responsibility
  • Give each team member appropriate authority to handle their assigned problems or responsibilities.
  • Encourage creative and innovative solutions and allow your team to pursue these solutions within the authority you have given them
  • And it’s really important to allow your team to make mistakes and learn from them. People can learn more from a few false starts than from immediate success. It also can help refine their ideas into the best possible solution by seeing what doesn’t work

The key to following all of these tips is to understand the degree of trust that you have in your team members and the amount of trust they have placed in you. in the video, Jason discusses both of these kinds of trust in detail and how you should take the amount of trust between you and your team in order to apply the tips above.

 

Photo Credit: By Patricedward (Personal Photo) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

We can’t do it all by ourselves. It’s true in leadership just as it is in life. Trying to achieve our goals without asking for help usually slows us down on our path. This is why human beings have learned to build teams and why good leadership is regarded so highly. When we build a team around us, it’s important to utilize those team members effectively to accomplish our mission and properly delegating authority is key to making that happen. Usually when we think about delegating a decision or task to someone on our team, we think about it in terms of something that we either don’t have the time or energy to handle, or it’s something we don’t want to deal with ourselves. An alternative way to consider this is using delegation and empowerment to develop the individual capabilities of our team members.

Delegation and Empowerment – Developing Your Team’s Potential

We can’t do it all by ourselves. It’s true in leadership just as it is in life. Trying to achieve our goals without asking for help usually slows us down on our path. This is why human beings have learned to build teams and why good leadership is regarded so highly. When we build a team around us, it’s important to utilize those team members effectively to accomplish our mission and properly delegating authority is key to making that happen. Usually when we think about delegating a decision or task to someone on our team, we think about it in terms of something that we either don’t have the time or energy to handle, or it’s something we don’t want to deal with ourselves. An alternative way to consider this is using delegation and empowerment to develop the individual capabilities of our team members.

Delegation and Empowerment – The Payoff

Delegating to our team members and empowering them to make decisions pays vast dividends beyond the immediate payoff of getting a task done or a decision made. Sending one of our team members off on a journey to develop their own decision-making process and engage in critical thinking will help them grow in a way that simply focusing on the technical aspects of their job can’t provide. Engaging in this kind of leadership development will help produce team members who understand our vision and can show initiative to take action to meet team goals without needing direct supervision.

How to Develop Leaders Using Delegation and Empowerment

It’s important to make a distinction between simply delegating tasks to our team members and empowering them to make decisions. While assigning tasks and managing work flow among the team is an important aspect of leadership, if we want to grow and develop our team members, we need to give them more than tasks to engage in. We should be striving to delegate not just actions, but to delegate the authority to solve problems and make decisions that support our goals. Not everyone is ready to jump right in and be a decision maker right away, so here a four ways that we can develop leaders on our teams by empowering them while guiding them at the same time.

  1. Challenge Them – Delegate a project that actually matters. Much like setting goals for ourselves, it should be achievable but challenging. Success shouldn’t be 100% guaranteed. Giving a team member a decision to make that is too easy or doesn’t have significant impact will result in limited growth.
  2. Push them out of their comfort zone – True leaders are comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty, or at least not afraid of it. We can help our team become more comfortable learning to act without perfect information by guiding and mentoring them through situations that expand the boundaries of their comfort zone. Since every team member is different, it will take some consideration to determine what each one is comfortable with. Assessing how to help each team member to expand their comfort zone can be a key factor in who we delegate a decision or project to.
  3. Let them struggle – It can be a very difficult balance between providing mentoring and advice and breaking the problem open for our team. We should strive to be coaches for them, not problem solvers. When they are struggling, we should ask questions, not provide answers. A little adversity is a good thing. It helps people bond and break down the barriers between them. If interpersonal barriers are part of the problem, allowing the team to solve these issues for themselves will provide them a better set of tools for interpersonal relationships in the future.
  4. Let there be potential to fail – We always need to assess the stakes of the decision we are delegating. If this is a “failure is not an option” situation, we may not want to delegate the whole decision, but maybe only pieces of it. Failure teaches our team to evaluate what they have already tried and adapt in order to succeed as well as building perseverance and determination. Your team will learn more about themselves and their leadership style by failing initially, then pivoting until they succeed than if they are immediately successful every time.

 

Applying these four considerations when you are trying to figure out who to delegate that important decision to will help develop strong leadership among the members of our team. Don’t forget that the one of the goals is to grow their capabilities as much as it is to distribute the work around the team. In some cases, the necessity to achieve the mission will drive that decision, but it always benefits us to look for opportunities to develop our team members while we achieve our goals. Delegation and empowerment, when considered thoughtfully, help us meet both of those needs.

 

Share your experiences with delegation and empowerment in the comments.

 

Photo Credit: By tableatny (originally posted to Flickr as BXP135677) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

We only have so much mental bandwidth at any given time and it can be challenging to put the focus where we need it most. Delegating decisions and tasks to others is one of the best tools we have as leaders to optimize our mental bandwidth.

Delegating Decisions – Tips to Optimize Your Mental Bandwidth

Leaders, business owners and other ambitious people always have a lot on their minds. We might have a new, exciting area that we want to lead our team into, an initiative to improve our current processes, or just finding ways to make quality of life better for the people in our personal and professional lives. We also have a lot of things that keep us occupied day-to-day that prevent us from really focusing on the strategic efforts that are most important to us. We only have so much mental bandwidth at any given time and it can be challenging to put the focus where we need it most. Delegating decisions and tasks to others is one of the best tools we have as leaders to optimize our mental bandwidth.

Achieve Focus Through Delegating Decisions

If you’re just starting out as a leader or manager, delegating authority to others can be an intimidating idea. In the video, Jason talks about how to use some deliberate, conscious actions and behaviors to alleviate these fears and offers three questions to ask ourselves before delegating decisions to others:

  1. Who on our team has the skill and ability to pull together all of the factors necessary to make the decision?
  2. Who on the team do we trust to represent our interests as the team leader?
  3. Who on the team has the maturity and dedication to see it through to the end?

In addition to these three questions, it’s important to ask ourselves if delegating a particular decision or task will help us free up some of that mental bandwidth to let us focus on more important priorities. Delegating decisions that are small or inconsequential is not as effective and building trust with our team and giving them ownership of decisions that have real meaning to the organization.

If you've ever been frustrated because your team produced results that weren't exactly what you anticipated, you're not alone. It happens to all leaders now at then, the outcome is adequate but maybe could have turned out a little better or we just had a different idea of how it would turn out. It's not our team's fault, they worked hard and showed initiative but just didn't quite hit what we were after. Situations like this one can be avoided through consciously setting expectations with our teams about our desired end states. In fact, we can really upgrade team performance by working through a process to set clear, measurable and achievable goals followed with well-defined expectations for our team members.

Setting Expectations

If you’ve ever been frustrated because your team produced results that weren’t exactly what you anticipated, you’re not alone. It happens to all leaders now at then, the outcome is adequate but maybe could have turned out a little better or we just had a different idea of how it would turn out. It’s not our team’s fault, they worked hard and showed initiative but just didn’t quite hit what we were after. Situations like this one can be avoided through consciously setting expectations with our teams about our desired end states. In fact, we can really upgrade team performance by working through a process to set clear, measurable and achievable goals followed with well-defined expectations for our team members.

Increasing Team Performance by Setting Expectations

Next time you are ready to turn your team loose, try these five tips for setting expectations

  1. Communicate clear, measurable and achievable goals to your team
  2. Share your vision of how the end state looks and feels
  3. Clearly define products and processes
  4. Establish timelines and metrics
  5. Communicate frequently and effectively

By explicitly setting expectations with our team members, we can give share with them a clear vision of our desire end states and empower them to make choices on their own that support that outcome. This kind of minimizes the misunderstandings that can occur from different interpretations among the team about what the goals truly are. In addition to the empowerment and team building benefits, we can avoid costly rework in terms of dollars and time.

Jason LeDuc from Evil Genius Leadership Consultants shares some advice about why it's important to let go of control when the time is right. He also discusses some of the reasons team members are reluctant to let go and gives 4 tips on how to help your team be more comfortable relinquishing control.

Letting Go of Control

Jason LeDuc shares some advice about why it’s important to let go of control when the time is right. He also discusses some of the reasons team members are reluctant to let go and gives 4 tips on how to help your team be more comfortable relinquishing control.