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!