PART 1: The Principles of Proper Delegation
We have all heard that we need to learn how to delegate better so that we can accomplish more as leaders. However, the resources related to how one properly delegates are less abundant than those resources which explain the numerous benefits of delegation. Looking at most of what is available, it would seem that delegation is as simple as passing off your tasks to your subordinates so that you can have more time to do the important things. This misunderstanding of delegation has been a recipe for disaster. It has resulted in scores of people trying and failing to use this powerful strategy without ever truly understanding its full potential. Over the next couple of weeks, I will attempt to shed some light on the elusive “how to” information regarding delegation. My hope is that these articles will help you and your team to work together in a more supportive and complementary way that exponentially increases the effectiveness of your talent as a visionary and their efforts to make your vision a reality.
In my book “Why Can’t People Just Do Their Jobs? The Empowering Leader’s Guide to having more fulfillment, less stress, and getting the best out of those you lead, I outline my EMPOWER Method, which consists of 7 Proven Steps to radically change your leadership culture and improve productivity for both you and your team. Here, I will give you a bit of background of the first 2 steps so that our discussion of Step 3 will make more sense. However, it would be impossible for me to give you all the information you would need to fully master the method in this article series. If you have further questions you can grab a copy of the book here . You can also feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EMPOWER Method Step 1: Examine and Evaluate your Expectations, deals with taking inventory of your team, including their leader (YOU), and setting your team up for success by developing reasonable expectations for what your team can accomplish in the short, medium, and long-term. We focus on the fact that to get your team to concentrate their efforts on your goals you must earn their trust, their respect, and their belief. As the old saying goes, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care!” This applies to your vision as well. Your people will not be truly willing to allow you to lead them until they know that you care about them and until they have an answer to the 4 questions of team building. (More on this in the book)
EMPOWER Method Step 2: Measure their Expectations, deals with how you then set goals for your team. The point is to ensure that what you ask them to do is both challenging (aspirational) and at the same time achievable without them having to give a perfect effort (inspirational). The goal is to get them to stretch outside of their comfort zones but to manage that stretch so as not to do any irreparable damage.
The best example of this balance is from the realm of physical training. So many people decide that they are going to get in shape, so they go and they do a crazy work out for about a week or two. Then, they either quit because their minds can’t deal with that level of discomfort for a long period, or they injure themselves. The key to sustained, long-term growth (creating Leaders) is manageable discomfort over a consistent, prolonged period of time with adequate rest and celebration of accomplishments.
By doing this, you build two things: You build your body’s ability to tolerate the discomfort because your muscles adapt, and you build your mind’s ability to deal with the discomfort because your mind adapts. The remaining steps in the EMPOWER Method are about creating systems and processes that allow you to manage the sustained, long-term growth of your team by putting them in situations that allow their minds and their muscles to adapt while maintaining their faith in you and, more importantly, your faith in them. Understanding this, we now turn to Step 3 and the most powerful strategy that you will use as you work to get your team to take more initiative and give their best on every project: Delegation. And more specifically, (and in keeping with our acronym) Proper Delegation.
As Jack Welch, Simon Sinek, and a host of other Leadership gurus have explained, when you are a technician/specialist, your responsibility is the work. Once you become a leader, your responsibility becomes the people who do the work. It is important that you are clear on this, as a Leader, your responsibility is not the work. From this point forward in your career, if you want to do bigger and better things, you can no longer focus on the work. If you focus on the people who do the work, it is a natural consequence that the work will get done. Therefore, mastering delegation is the principle way that Empowering Leaders play to win.
So today, we have discussed the importance of Delegation in general and specifically as it relates to the EMPOWER Method. It’s important that you realize that the idea that delegation is about passing off tasks so that you as the leader can be more effective at doing could not be further from the truth. Though efficiencies of time and effort are natural byproducts of proper delegation, approaching it this way puts the cart before the horse. In this chapter, we will focus on the purpose of delegation, the principles of delegation, and some practical application strategies. Once you understand these and have applied them to your processes, then you will be able to skillfully delegate to your teams with great success.
Therefore, the next couple of articles will introduce you to the 5 Principles of Proper Delegation and how to employ them with your team. I hope that this article has been helpful for you. Let me know your thoughts about the importance Delegation and some of the questions you would like me to cover in my upcoming articles
About This Contributor
Your instructions are clear. Your timelines are reasonable. But still, tasks that should take 3-4 days to complete seem to take your team 3-4 weeks. Unless you are personally making it happen, checking on every detail, they just don’t seem able to perform to your needs. Managing a team this way is not sustainable, physically, or financially. At this rate, it’s not a question of “if” you will burnout, but “when.”