One of the most important responsibilities of a manager is to give your team “growth assignments.”
A “growth assignment” is typically thought of as an opportunity for someone to take on a project or responsibility that they have not done before. They need to learn new information and possibly develop new skills along the way.
One of the most difficult challenges for a manager is to design these “growth assignments” and then get out of the way. It is only natural that people will struggle. When this happens, your empathy can actually get in the way. You will want to step in to help, but it can be interpreted as micro-managing.
Here are some tips on how to delegate effectively in these situations, from a recent article in Harvard Business Review:
*Shift from Doer to Leader Mindset. You have been getting positive reinforcement during your career for Doing. Now it is time to take your fulfillment from watching others grow and perform.
*Distinguish Between Low- and High- Risk Tasks. For some perfectionists, EVERY task is high risk. But you know that is really not true. How much damage will it actually cause? Check in with your boss to make sure you are both cool with this task or project not working out perfectly. It is a tradeoff between learning and performance.
*Embrace the Discomfort of the Learning Process. When you see one of your staff members struggle, your initial reaction may be to take the assignment over from them. Don’t do this! If you have properly evaluated the risk of the task then let them struggle – and learn.
*Be Curious and Facilitative. Let your staff member find their own way. Yes – you need to provide training, guidance, and coaching. But, coaching is not having all of the answers – its asking questions and helping to guide your staff member to a solution that works for them.
Your team members need to discover their capabilities on their own – though you can be there to support them. Anyone who has taught a five-year old to ride a bike, knows it can be scary. There’s that wobble that they do but then, wow. And once they experience “balance” for themselves, they have it for life. The same is true for your team members.
*Ideas for this blog taken from: Thompson, K. “To Help Your Team Grow, Give Them Space to Struggle,” Harvard Business Review online, July 6, 2023.