Overview: To do less and lead more, leaders must learn to delegate teams effectively. Delegation means much more than handing off undesirable work to employees, however. It represents a complex channel of interaction through which leaders empower, engage, and motivate employees.
Doing less and leading more… That’s how we sum up the challenge of scaling up leadership
The time to scale up comes in every leader’s career. Intelligent leadership is not about doing more low-level work. It’s about finding people to whom leaders can hand off progressively higher-level work as they focus on the strategic challenges facing the organization.
To scale up successfully, leaders must learn to delegate effectively. A leader should never confuse delegation with an opportunity to toss unwanted tasks onto someone else’s plate. Effective delegation is deliberate. Haphazard delegation may end up working against leaders and not for them.
When to Delegate and When not to Delegate
Intelligent leaders know what to delegate, when, and to whom. In addition to being deliberate and strategic, effective delegation is complex in terms of the variables it entails. Intelligent leaders delegate when:
- their calendar is full, and they can’t move on to higher-level work due to low-level tasks they have to complete
- they know there is someone on their team who can handle work as well or better than they can
- they want to give an employee an opportunity to develop skills and grow
- they want to develop trust-building skills
Great leaders avoid delegating when:
- employees aren’t ready to complete delegated work
- they know they may not like some of the decisions employees make and change them
- they don’t plan to recognize or give credit to employees for their efforts
- they can’t be sincere about why they delegate work
- they plan to take credit for work they delegate
What to Delegate
Knowing what to delegate is as important as knowing when and how to do it. As a leader, you don’t want to treat delegation as a way of getting rid of work you don’t like.
- Delegate work that you love to do and deem important. Reports know what you like and consider important and value when you delegate meaningful work to them instead of menial bits you find undesirable.
- Choose meetings you delegate based on whether you have employees willing and able to own them. If you have such employees, let them handle the meetings and represent the team every time. Make it clear that you delegate responsibility for the meeting to a person based on competency… NOT because you don’t have time to host the meeting yourself.
- Delegating tasks makes sense under some circumstances, but you often want to delegate projects instead of mere tasks. When you delegate a project to your team, you make clear you trust reports with complex jobs instead of treating them as tools that help you to complete projects.
How to Delegate
The process of delegation is a high-value interaction between leaders and their teams. It carries meaning on multiple levels. Executive coaching can help leaders take full advantage of all communication channels.
Executive coaching professionals advise leaders to choose carefully whom they delegate work, to be clear about what they expect them to accomplish and be flexible about the risks and mistakes delegation entails.
It wouldn’t be wrong to think of team delegation as a highly efficient leadership coaching tool. When deciding whom to delegate work to, a leader should ask the following questions:
- Who on my team could use this work to develop their skills?
- Who has the capacity to complete this work?
- Would this good candidate consider this work a reward and an opportunity?
- Who is ready for the challenge of undertaking this work?
A leader who knows how to delegate sets clear expectations, establishes checkpoints along the way, creates a motivating environment, and ensures employees have all material means to complete jobs.
Leadership coaching attributes great value to the leadership skill of optimal delegation. Leaders who delegate teams well and who empower, motivate, and engage employees, ensure their long-term commitment and loyalty to their organizations.