The Art of Delegation
Those of us that have worked in a managerial position and after being promoted had to hire, onboard, train, and manage our replacement know the stress it can cause. You have to do the things required in the new role while still being responsible for the work you used to do is done by someone else not as skilled and/or experienced. Training someone to do what you did really well (that’s likely why you got promoted) means letting them make mistakes that you will have to coach them to fix and avoid going forward. It is analogous to a parent watching their teenager take the family car out for a drive alone. You want him to learn and grow through experience without totaling the car or hurting himself or someone else. It is a leap of faith you have to take but it’s still scary.
Delegation ≠ Abdication
Delegating a task doesn’t mean giving up all responsibility. Throwing a new hire into the deep end of the pool is leadership malpractice. The “sink or swim” approach simply isn’t an effective way to develop your people, which is your most important job as a leader. Conversely, avoid the temptation to hover and ask for daily updates. Micromanaging quickly deflates morale and saps energy. It is however OK to check in occasionally to show your support by saying “Hey Juan, how’s it going with the software upgrade, anything you need from me?”
One of the worst things one can do is say, “Give it to me, I’ll do it”. That might be expedient but stifles their development. True, something you could have done in 30 minutes can turn into a 2 hour time drain as you coach them through it while your boss is still expecting you to meet the deadlines for projects she’s assigned to you.
Trust and support your people knowing that making mistakes is an integral part of their learning and growth .While coaching to correct an error be affirming and supportive: “Bill I am confident in your ability. Making mistakes is part of our growth. Let’s talk through the issue you had and how you might handle it in the future”. Here is another example of this approach: “Melissa, you’re new to this role but I trust your judgment. When you need it, don’t hesitate to ask for help, it’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength”.
Effective two-way communication is vital. My first mentor once said to me “I like good news, I can handle bad news, but I can’t accept no news. If I am not hearing anything from you, I will assume it’s going great, and you will have the project completed on time and on budget. Don’t tell me when it’s due that you are having problems and will be late. That’s unacceptable because it’s too late for me to help you get it on track, that ship has sailed”.
When someone doesn’t entirely comprehend what you are trying to communicate it’s incumbent on you to adjust and deliver the message in a manner they will understand. This is particularly true when you are you’re delegating an important project or task.
Being a leader can be quite stressful yet highly rewarding when you develop a team of people that consistently performs at a high level without any hand holding. How cool is that? Just be aware that it will likely lead to another promotion or job offers!
Frank Manfre Leadership Coach www.frankmanfre.com