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Delegating is tough indeed. If you really think about it, the art of delegation is a combination of letting go and not feeling like you’re dumping work on someone else. Many leaders tell me they hesitate to delegate because:
- The employee is not doing the task the way the leader would.
- The employee appears to be procrastinating or “slacking off.”
- The employee is stuck but won’t admit they don’t know what they’re doing.
- And so many other reasons.
So then, as a leader you might think:
“Perhaps they’re just not ready for that task yet.”
Or…”My employees have too much work on their plate.”
And of course, you want to be a supportive leader and guide them through the task so that they don’t fail and lose their confidence, right?
All these reasons, and more, are why you have so much work on your plate. But also, it’s the reason why your employees are not developing, therefore preventing you from being able to delegate more to them. It’s a catch 22!
So leaders, here are two very simple things you can do to delegate more effectively:
You may be all too familiar with this scenario: You have to follow up constantly on the status of the project because your employee (in your opinion) is not actively updating you. You are worried that if your employee proceeds with the task the way they are, they will fail – thus derailing the completion of the task.
It’s easy to get caught up in “what if” scenarios. And of course, you need to keep a pulse check on the project or task you have delegated. However, take a step back to ask yourself why you’re getting so involved in the task you have delegated.
Instead of diving in to solve the problem, get curious. For example, while it may appear your employee is lazy or not putting a priority on this project or task, perhaps they have a timeline that does not resonate with you. Everyone works differently and goes through learning stages at different times. Take the time to understand the employee’s way of doing things and allow enough trust to see the project through. Ask them how often they would like to check-in, and also communicate if you feel the time between updates is too lengthy and explain why. The employee may not do everything your way, but that’s really the point. They will do it their way – you just need to learn what that is and if they can be successful at it.
It is important to accept that the employee will make mistakes, and ensuring you meet with the employee to debrief after the task is complete will allow reflection on what could have been done better. Note, this is not an opportunity for you to tell them everything you felt they did wrong. This is when you hone in on your superior coaching skills and have them walk through what they thought of the experience and how they would do it differently next time.
When I talk about flexibility, I mean openness to how the employee chooses to accomplish their task. For example, if you see that they’re trying an unconventional way of doing something, or if you see they’re trying something that you think won’t work, do your best to refrain from trying to save them or tell them what to do. Remember, they’re learning and they won’t know the most effective outcomes for them unless they try it themselves.
At the same time, if your employee asks for guidance, don’t hesitate to provide it. It’s a fine balance between teaching and coaching – you don’t want to micromanage, but you also don’t want your employee to flounder. And remember, if you step in to help when your employee asks for it, you’re not micromanaging – even if you think they should know how to do the task. Sometimes people haven’t had the opportunity to learn a particular skill and have gotten through their career transitions without having to learn or use the skill you think they “should” have. Take the time to teach them and if you continue to see they don’t get it, then yes you might have a problem.
If delegation is an area you struggle with, let’s talk! Book a complimentary session on how you can start delegating effectively right away: