Delegation is like a diet. Everyone knows it will be a pain to begin, but they’ll feel better for it. The greatest leaders in history are the greatest delegators. They made the sometimes painful decision to go it alone, and learned the value of team effort.
You’ve probably learned the dynamic of delegation. Let me add a few reminders to consider in improving your delegation skills.
- Don’t forget the early follow up. Delegation has some natural and time-sensitive gaps. Projects may be poorly communicated. The “delegate-ee” may be embarrassed to admit they are out of their comfort zone. There may not be enough resources to complete the task. Catching those things early on can prevent a migraine later on.
- Avoid the “helicopter” syndrome. The helicopter is an aeronautical wonder; but “helicoptering” is a leadership nightmare. A walk-around is a lot more productive than a look-over. Remember the uneasy feeling of a teacher looking over your shoulder at your school desk? That’s how a team member may feel. Create a reasonable space.
- Ask for the report. Part of the joy of delegation is the team member’s reporting back. It’s a great time for affirming work or making critical adjustments, based on the facts of the report. The reporting process may also inspire even more creative procedures for the same task.
- Mentor the delegate. The best delegation results in a delegation trend. You’re not only getting more work done through delegation, you’re increasing the productivity of your team. It’s the “teach someone how to fish” principle taken to the next level.
- Appreciate best efforts. When a task implodes, it doesn’t have to result in casualties. Ineptitude is a call to leadership. It signals that further training or resources are necessary. Learn to adjust to the best someone can do, and help them do better.
Businessman and former U. S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, said, “Don’t be a bottleneck . . . Force responsibility down and out. Find problem areas, add structure, and delegate. The pressure is to do the reverse. Resist it.”
– Stan Toler