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3 Steps to help you get better at delegating

By Guest Contributor Maggi Evans, Chartered Occupational Psychologist, Consultant & Coach -Mosaic Consulting on Friday, Nov 1, 2019

We hear a lot about scarcity of talent. However, a recent report by the CIPD found that 30% of people feel over-qualified for their job. This suggests that your team actually have lots of talent and potential that’s just waiting to be tapped into and released. One simple way to start tapping into this talent is to master the art of delegation.

For you, delegation can release your time to focus on what you’re meant to be doing. Too many leaders are so stuck in the detail that they can’t focus on their real job – taking a bigger picture, longer term view. A lack of delegation also reduces learning opportunities, stunting the growth and development of your team. This in turn lowers their engagement, leading to higher turnover as people look to progress their career elsewhere.

Could you get better results through better delegation? Most leaders and managers can. According to the Center for Creative Leadership, delegation is one of four key things that leaders around the world need to do better in order to develop their effectiveness. So, how do you master the art of great delegation?

1. Great delegation is planned and structured

It’s difficult (if not impossible) to delegate well if you don’t think about it up front. We’ve probably all been on the receiving end of poor delegation when someone says, ‘could you just do this for me?’. You’re then left not knowing what they want, by when or if there are any specific requirements.

So, if you want to delegate well you need to plan and structure it. Here are five simple steps:

  1. Understanding capability: Does this person have the ability, skills, knowledge and motivation to do this work? Do I trust them? If the answer is no, then you need to start by building the skills, knowledge and trust.
  2. Provide context: Describe how this task/project fits with the bigger picture of goals, how this helps you, why this work matters and if appropriate talk through what they can learn by doing it.
  3. Set goals and expectations: Have a discussion to ensure shared understanding on what needs to be done, how should it be done, when it needs to be done by. Make sure that you agree what decisions they can make and when they need to check back with you.
  4. Review progress: Ask for updates (in line with check-ins that you’ve agreed), problem solve together on any issues, update on any changes in context. You may need to adjust some of the goals and expectations as the context changes.
  5. Share feedback: Ask for self-reflection on how they think it went. Then share your feedback – what do I like? what doesn’t work as well? what could they do differently or better next time?

2. Great delegation is a shared responsibility

People often act as if great delegation is the sole responsibility of the manager, or the person delegating. This is not the case – you don’t want your team to be passive receivers of the work you hand out. You want them to step up, to take accountability and to be proactive in making it work for them and for you.

It works really well to talk through the five steps of delegation with your team. You can then agree how you will use it. Then if it’s not working, they can see the gap and take action to improve things. For example, they can:

  • Tell you more about their capability and actively work to build a trusting relationship
  • Ask questions if they need more context
  • Clarify the goals and expectations, making sure you both agree
  • Actively check-in with you to review progress
  • Seek and give feedback so you can both learn and improve

3. Great delegation is a learning opportunity

People want to learn at work – it’s a key part of thriving and feeling engaged. Delegation is a fabulous learning opportunity that helps you to do the day job better and it helps build capability for the future. Consciously planning delegation as a learning opportunity enables you to gradually step back more and more as the team member builds skills, experience and confidence.

So, the first time you delegate a task or project to someone, you may stay quite involved, making sure they have the skills and motivation to deliver. Without planning this handover, the risk is that you stay involved in the detail and never let go. However, with conscious thought, the second time you can be a bit less involved and then even less. Over time, the team member can take full accountability and have the scope to shape what they are doing. This is when you start to fully release the talent of your team.

Great delegation involves learning and stretch, a challenge, a sense of building skills, knowledge and experience. Of course, not everything that is delegated can involve learning, but you should find ways to balance getting the job done with keeping people learning.

What’s stopping you from delegating?

This all makes so much sense. So why don’t we do it? Lots of leaders have a real fear of letting go. This is often underpinned by some unhelpful beliefs. For example, some leaders think they have got the best solution – which makes it difficult to trust others. Other leaders think they haven’t got time to explain the task to someone else, so they do it for them – time and time again.

To delegate well, you need to challenge any beliefs that might stop you and you need to embrace positive beliefs about the benefits. Here are some questions to help you:

  • What are my beliefs and feelings about delegation (giving or receiving)?
  • How do these influence my behavior?
  • In what ways do these beliefs help or hinder me?
  • Why do I hold these beliefs?
  • If these beliefs are hindering me, how could I challenge my beliefs?

So, if you want to be better at releasing your talent and the talent in your team, think again about delegation – what are you doing that you should be giving to your team? How can you develop them and help them to grow so you can grow? The opportunity is there – so it’s over to you!

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