One of the most difficult skills for managers and leaders to master is that of delegation. We all know that effective delegation is an important part of our performance and success yet so many people struggle with it.
We’ve all had the training classes and some have even had coaching in this area yet it continues to be difficult for many. One of the factors seldom discussed is the trust that must exist between managers and direct reports for delegation to really be effective.
We know that we must delegate both responsibility and authority to others. Many have been counseled to delegate in terms of results expected as opposed to telling people how to accomplish the task or project but do we really trust that the results we get will be accurate, timely and acceptable to us?
I frequently refer to delegation as being analogous to teaching a child to ride a two wheeled bicycle. Remember the first two wheeler you bought for your child? It likely came with training wheels and after a few weeks of riding around, they came to you asking you to remove the training wheels. So you went into the garage, bloodied your knuckles with the Crescent Wrench and removed the wheels.
Then, the fun really started. You gently launched them down the sidewalk and waited for the crash. You picked them up, dusted them off and tried again. The next time, they went a little farther before the crash and farther still on the next try. And, in a couple of weeks, you were trying to keep them off the freeway.
Effective delegation works largely the same way. We give an employee some task to accomplish but stay close and offer coaching and support. We balance the need to get the work done with the important learning of the individual. This frequently is where we become frustrated with the amount of time it is taking and pull the task back. After all. it takes less time for us to do it ourselves than it does to train someone else to do it for us. And we know that we can do it better and that they certainly will not do it the way we would do it.
This is a major trap to fall into. The problem is that there is only one of you and many of them so, if you continue to do everything yourself, you’ll eventually grind to a halt. It takes practice for the employee to learn the new skills and to build the trust that must exist for you to really let go. So, don’t give up. Continue to delegate, coach and reward your employees for learning new skills.
Here are a few tips to help you improve your delegation skills:
- Know the knowledge and skill levels of your employees
- Delegate appropriately
- Delegate in terms of what you need accomplished, not how to do it
- Ensure that you have a feedback process to stay on top of status
- Don’t micro manage the employee or the process
- Be available to answer questions and provide coaching
- Don’t answer every question unless you are sure that the employee actually lacks the specific knowledge of the issue
- Ask great questions. You may be surprised at what people know and they just might have a better way to do things than you do
- Hold people accountable
- Enjoy the teaching and the learning.
How effective are you at delegating?