“You need to learn to delegate so that you can focus on the big picture.” ~ Richard Branson
Delegation is one of the most crucial leadership skills but it’s often one that leaders struggle with. According to Branson, it’s the simple ability of leaders to “delegate and let go.”
Being able to let go and delegate to others can be one of the hardest things to do as a manager. We hang on to tasks for a multitude of reasons – we don’t want to increase the workload of others, we like doing the task, we don’t want to be seen as doing less, it would take too long to explain or train someone else, or we think no-one can do the job as well as we can. Whatever the reasons, not delegating can leave us slowly struggling under an increasing mountain of work, resulting in a poorer standard of work and a demotivated team who are not being allowed to take on more responsibility.
Successful leaders learn to switch the focus of activity from doing to planning – you have to be able to work through others and not do all the work yourselves. This in turn helps you to find the time to focus on the higher value work that only you can do.
As a manager, whenever you delegate a task, you need to make it clear what level of authority you are conferring to others so it’s really important that you make your expectations clear.
The level of authorisation will depend on many factors including the task, timescales, expected outcomes, skills, knowledge and capability etc. Where problems arise is when a manager thinks that they are delegating at a fairly low level and the team member assumes they are being delegated to at a higher level and takes more initiative than they were given or vice versa. Problems can be avoided by clarifying the expectations at the front end.
When deciding what to delegate it’s useful to think about why you’re delegating that particular task. Can it be done by someone at a lower level within the team? Is there a developmental opportunity? Is there anyone in the team that has capacity?
Once you’ve decided on the task you’re going to delegate, you need to think about the skills and knowledge required to do it. Then you can begin to think about who has those skills or who could acquire them in the given timescales. If the task is a fairly big one and a wide range of skills and knowledge are required then it might be worth chunking the task down and delegating to more than one person.
The initial conversation that you have with the team member(s) you are delegating the task to is vitally important for a successful outcome. There are many aspects that you will need to cover including the task, context, timescales, reporting procedures, responsibilities etc. Thinking about the why, what, who and how beforehand will enable you to successfully communicate your expectations.
When you delegate work in a clear and effective way you empower people. Empowerment creates trust, understanding and deep satisfaction. When you empower people, they feel competent, and they understand that they have control over their work. You also avoid them becoming too dependent on you.
An empowered team is often a happy team, and the managers of empowered teams are often happy managers!
Contact us if you would like to find out more about delegation and the tools and models that can guide you through the process.