For many leaders, effective delegation can be the toughest nut to crack. It certainly was for me. When I stepped into my first management role I really struggled ‘passing off’ work to members of my team.
Two key things held me back;
1) An inability to let go; My insecurity drove me to over control and I ended up micro managing. I was so hung up on my own standard of performance that I was unable to be in a position to empower members of my team.
2) Time; With the best of intentions I went in with all guns blazing. I was out to prove myself and was trying to move all the levers at once. This meant I was so overwhelmed with work streams that I couldn’t delegate if I wanted to. What I did delegate was the easy stuff to unload– admin. You can imagine what this did to my team’s morale.
I was starting to feel a burnout looming around the corner so I reached out to a long time mentor for his advice. I explained my situation of spinning too many plates and he help me prioritize delegating over anything else! I still remember struggling to do this, and even when I thought I had, he would look at my task list and tell me I still had too much on. I worked on this tirelessly and it meant I really had to think of what needed to be on my plate and what could be handed over to a team member.
I came across Timothy Ferriss’s book The Four Hour Work Week
where he emphasizes how much extra time we spend doing stuff that could easily be automated. In it, he shares this automation decision tree (above);
I took this chart and made my own delegation decision tree. I framed it around the following;
- Do I enjoy it? Always make sure you are doing things that you enjoy as it will give you the right kind of needed energy which will ensure you have the time and energy to give to your team.
- Is it in line with my strengths? If you’re doing something that isn’t, it will take you longer and drain energy away from you and what you are good at doing. Sometimes we don’t have a choice and if that is the case, always plan in for extra time as these are the things we usually procrastinate.
- Is there someone in the team that would enjoy this? I found that by understanding my team’s strengths and development areas I was able to delegate more effectively by aligning the work with their needs.
I managed to fit this basic decision tree onto a post it note and posted it above my screen. All my work then passed through the decision tree and after time, I managed to effectively delegate a lot of my work (and not just admin) to my team.
This shift had two big impacts;
1) I had MORE time; I had more time and headspace and could start seeing the wood from the trees. I was able to think more strategically and most importantly, be there for my team.
2) Team Morale; I had more time to get to know my team and what their strengths were, which meant I could delegate for each team member’s strengths. If I had to do something that required a lot of analytics (one of my weakness areas) I would delegate to a team member who loved swimming in data. The ability to break my projects into ‘delegatable’ pieces meant that the team felt more included, empowered and fostered more collaboration.
So I urge you all to start delegating effectively with your team. It takes time and energy but the results pay back massively and almost immediately. I’m sure you’ve had that ‘manager’ that didn’t delegate enough (or at all) and how that made you feel. Check yourself that you aren’t unintentionally doing that to your teammates.
Have any good tips that have worked for you or have seen worked before - share with me!