For many leaders, delegating feels like something they know they should do, but don’t. Senior leaders often struggle to decide what they can delegate that would actually be helpful to them, or how to delegate responsibility and not just assign tasks, or what delegated responsibilities could serve as a learning and growth opportunity for others. In addition, senior executives themselves may not have had role models along the way to show them how to delegate successfully. And, of course, there’s the perceived reputational risk.
Before leaders can successfully delegate, they need to understand the nature of their own resistance. Once a leader has begun to shift his or her mindset, it’s time to start shifting behaviors.
In my own work as a leadership coach, I have identified eight practices employed by leaders who delegate successfully.
1. Pick the right person — and it isn’t always about capability. Successful delegators also explain why they chose the person to take on the task.
2. Be clear about what the person is responsible for and how much autonomy she has.
3. Describe the desired results in detail.
4. Make sure team members have the resources they need to do the job, whether it’s training, money, supplies, time, a private space, adjusted priorities or help from others.
5. Establish checkpoints, milestones and junctures for feedback.
6. Encourage new, creative ways for team members to accomplish goals.
7. Create a motivating environment. Successful delegators know when to cheerlead, coach, step in, step back, adjust expectations, make themselves available and celebrate successes.
8. Tolerate risks and mistakes, and use them as learning opportunities.
Delegating well helps leaders maximize their resources, ensuring that they’re focusing on their highest priorities, developing their team members and creating a workplace where delegation isn’t just expected — it’s embedded in the culture.
Written by Deborah Grayson Riegel, a principal at The Boda Group.