One of the toughest tasks executives face on a daily basis is time management – knowing how to best use their time and when to delegate.
I don’t have the time to make every decision, nor should I. I hire intelligent and capable people, and I need to trust them to assess situations and make decisions to complete projects. I believe that delegation can accelerate company success by creating new leaders who have the flexibility to solve complex problems themselves. It also frees me up to focus on big picture items such as strategy, culture, organization and results.
My approach to delegation, however, is not one-size-fits-all. There’s a spectrum. On one end, trusting a team to assess a situation or project, report on it and then make a recommendation. On the other, a leader assessing and reporting on the project while also making the final decision. The ideal end state is to hand off a project from beginning to end, but that can’t happen unless there is an opportunity to build trust.
To gain that trust, it’s best to define clearly what needs to get done and why it’s important. I’m clear in my role and give my team the space to ask questions. Then, I end with my expectations for deadlines and outcomes. As a result of delegating this way, I’ve become a better leader and gained the ability to make more focused decisions with better outcomes.
Executives who don’t delegate feel overwhelmed and unbalanced. They’re forever creating new lists. Worse, they tend to lose the support of their teams. By not delegating, they’re basically telling a team they don't trust them. And, close-gripped delegation isn’t effective either since teams deflate under micromanagement. What they really want is ownership – they want to be able to take on more challenges and responsibility.
So, how does a good delegator distribute those tasks? Here are some of my best practices:
- Be clear about goals and the role you will play.
- Don’t delegate things that put people in compromising positions, such as tough news, vendor issues or customer complaints.
- Start off small – assign a few projects you know you can’t get close to. Then, ask your leader to make suggestions and create an action plan.
- Don’t dictate how to do a project. Tell leaders the outcome, give them a framework and let them get to the outcome in their own way.
- Always have a communication plan in place to debrief. Give your team the time and space they need to have a good discussion.
- Be patient – don’t get upset or micromanage if things go wrong. If you become reactive when things go wrong, your team will become hesitant and unable to make a decision unless they run it by you. Instead, check your team’s initial thought process and how they came to the final solution. Maybe they made the right decision and mitigated a worse outcome. Asking those questions can really open your eyes.
Written by Sam Reese
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