Delegating is one of the most difficult skills for high-performing, young leaders to learn.
This is because, up to this point in their careers, they have been rewarded for their personal excellence – making sure that everything is done to their very high standards. But then the scope of their responsibilities increases as they move up in organizations. They might toy with being a workaholic for a while to make sure they keep their hands on everything. But sooner or later, even this won’t work. They have to figure out how to delegate.
Here are eight key steps for effective delegation from a recent article in Harvard Business Review*, and I could not agree more with these:
1. Pick the right person. And don’t go to the same person all the time. Sometimes the right person is someone who needs to develop skills, shown an interest, or needs a challenge.
2. Clearly communicate how much autonomy the person has. The amount of “rope” you give someone should increase over time as they perform well.
3. Describe the desired results in detail. The person needs to know where the “goal line” is and how success will be measured.
4. Provide the necessary resources. You need to set people up for success.
5. Establish checkpoints and milestones. People need to know if they are making progress.
6. Encourage people to try new and creative methods for pursuing the goal. And reward people for trying new things.
7. Create a motivating environment. You need to know when to cheer, when to coach, and when to step back. And definitely celebrate successes.
8. Tolerates risks and mistakes; make sure to turn these into learning opportunities. Don’t just say “Oh, it’s okay.” Help the person review what happened and what they can learn.
Of course it is a little painful to see a colleague fall short at something that you know you could have done much better. But, excellence depends on a team of people performing at a high level. And the only way you will build this kind of team is to delegate.
*Riegel, D. G., “8 Ways Leaders Delegate Successfully,” Harvard Business Review online, August 15, 2019.