An Important Skill
It’s a tricky skill set that can mean the difference between being a truly successful leader and a mediocre micromanager.
What is it?
One Gallup study cited by the Harvard Business School says CEOs who excel in delegation generate 33% higher revenue. Management knows they can’t do it all alone, so they empower others which boosts productivity, morale, and confidence.
When done well, it can get the job done and help emerging leaders develop new skills. When done poorly, it can wreak havoc on everyone and drain the organization of energy and talent.
I think there are seven things to specifically watch while delegating.
Rule #1: Delegation should happen in the right assignment.
This is basic but important. Some things should not be delegated. There are some things that only the boss should do. Reprimanding a team member for poor performance would be one example. It should come from the leader directly. It cannot be delegated.
Rule #2: Delegation should happen in the right amount.
Under-delegating is micromanagement. Over-delegating leads to frustration. It’s the leader’s job to strike the right balance.
I’ve seen both of these things happen. An inexperienced, but enthusiastic new employee was given a massive assignment that no one had tackled in years. More commonly, I’ve seen an assignment parsed out so thin that it was a joke, resulting in close micromanagement and ensuing misery.
Rule #3: Delegation should happen with the right people.
Delegating to the right person or team is critical. This means the project doesn’t go to the person with the least amount of work or the “teacher’s pet” but to the person best suited for the task. This is an important leadership decision.
Rule #4: Delegation should happen with the right clarity.
The more the leader explains what success looks like, the better. Explanations, targets, reasons, specificity are all important. Some people are afraid to question the leader and just want to run with it if they are given something. Others will have zillions of questions. It’s the leader’s job to make sure that the assignment is clear and understood. Communication is not telling, but understanding.
Rule 5: Delegation should happen with the right communication loop in place.
This means that the lines of communication are open and clear. I remember one global CEO telling a team that they should report things directly to him. The problem was no one was going to bypass multiple levels of management and go right to him, no matter what he thought. That was not an effective communication loop. Setting up the right channels and amount of communication is absolutely critical for effective delegation.
Rule #6: Delegation should happen with the right support.
If you have ever been given an assignment with no support, you know how this feels. Delegation must be met with the right support. Do you have the budget to accomplish the task? Are you able to get the training you need? Do you have the support of others who are key to making it happen?
Rule #7: Delegation should happen with the right feedback.
Feedback is always important. That may be gratitude for a job done well or a push in a new direction if that is needed. Leaders who wait until the project is over before giving feedback are in danger of wasting time and resources and getting a negative result. Feedback is a partnership, not a one-way review.
Delegation is a skill that often is the difference between being overwhelmed by the task or overjoyed by the results. Learn to do it well if you want to be an exceptional leader.
Delegation is an art, requiring skills like emotional intelligence and communication. Think through the various rules before sending a team on a mission, and you will have a happier, more enthusiastic team and a greater likelihood of success.
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