One of the most common problems a new leader faces is that they quickly become overwhelmed with their new responsibility for the workload of the organization combined with their personal workload.
The primary benefit of delegating is that you now can scale your leadership effectively across multiple problems, opportunities, and people.
The word delegate originates from a Latin cognate of two words (down + depute). Delegatus in Latin is to be sent on a commission.
From the etymology dictionary we learn that to delegate means “to send with power to transact business as a representative.” The deeper Latin root provides an important contribution to our understanding. When we delegate something to someone we are formally granting them the right to do something on our behalf. It is much more than simply assigning work.
The Power of Delegating
When done in the right way delegating has a number of powerful organizational effects such as:
Increased organizational capacity. Leaders often become a bottleneck to organizational growth because they do not effectively delegate. Delegating expands the capacity of an organization because it enlists other resources, which effectively leverages the leader’s time.
Improved morale. People become part of the process of important things vs. being a human-machine that executes tasks.
Role elevation. Roles of both the leader and the follower become more important because of the distribution of power that occurs when delegation is done properly. The more a leader distributes power the stronger the leader’s base of power becomes. Similarly, the more an individual receives authority to have power, and executes that power as a representative of their supervising leader, the more the individual’s personal social capital increases; thus making them and their role more “important” in the organization.
Development of more leaders. Delegating creates more leaders in the organization because more people have a sense of serious responsibility and have real opportunities to exercise their intellectual capital on behalf of the organization and their supervising leader.
Enhanced creativity and innovation. Delegating unleashes expanded creativity because more people are applying sincere focus on important roles in the organization.
Engagement and accountability triggers. Delegating creates accountability, which leads to engagement. When people feel they are accountable for something important they treat that accountability with a level of importance that is above what they might otherwise treat a similar task.
High performance. Delegating increases the opportunity for teams to become high performing because of the distribution of ownership, which produces a feeling of alignment and a desire to accelerate work that produces success.
How to Delegate
Delegating in the right way requires much more engagement by the leader than simply giving someone an order. True delegation creates an extant social contract of collaboration, accountability, and responsibility between the leader and the follower. Delegating the right way is work for the leader, but it is the kind of work that creates mutual engagement between leader and follower(s).
Like empowerment, effectively delegating to a subordinate follows a recipe.
1 – Specify
Be clear about what it is you are delegating. Specific language is needed to help the individual know exactly what you are asking of him or her.
- Explain the level of empowerment (authority and resources) you are giving.
- Explain what you hope to have happen as a result of what you are delegating.
- Expose potential issues that you see that this person might face.
- Explain the timeline you are hoping this person will meet.
- Outline constraints or non-negotiables they have to live within.
- Express confidence.
- Schedule check-in times or express the frequency that you would like a check-in on the progress to occur.
Clarify and confirm their understanding. It is important that you have an engage-communication style at this point because you are looking to make sure they truly understand and you want to allow them to ask questions or express concerns.
2 – Document
Document exactly what you’ve delegated in two ways:
First – One of the best ways to document something you’ve delegated for your records is in a performance journal that you keep on those who work for you. Documenting the delegated item in that type of journal and then making updates to their progress in the journal will help when it is time to meet on the topic and when you face writing a performance review.
Second – Send an email expressing your appreciation for their willingness to take on the assignment and use that email to help outline the specifics from Step 1 (Specify). This is an additional opportunity to clarify and confirm their level of understanding of the assignment.
3 – Progress
In Step 1 (Specify) you should have identified how frequently you would like to be updated. Leaders who skip this step are abandoning/dumping the task not delegating it. The goal of this step is to maintain a leadership connection with the person and the project but do it without micromanaging.
4 – Respect
It is important that you respect the innovations and efforts of this person. Remember that they may not do things the way you would do them and it’s critical that you differentiate the “way” they do something from the outcome they are reaching. The outcome is what you want.
5 – Report
Establish a regular cadence of check-ins to allow the individual to report back to you. The reporting process is just as important for the leader’s development as it is for the individual who is reporting. The leader needs to give their time to the process and actively engage in the reporting process.
6 – Appreciate
Regardless of the outcome, appreciate the work that was done. Appreciate their efforts and express that appreciation. Correction, if the person is off track, should have happened early. If you have to correct someone at the conclusion of the project that means you didn’t do your part to stay engaged – it means you didn’t delegate, you dumped.
When to Delegate
As you can see, the process of delegating is an “all-in” process by both the leader and the follower. So, when should you delegate? As often as you possibly can.
Sometimes leaders feel they are too busy to delegate and empower in the proper way. In those cases the leader is employing a false economy and their ultimate return is likely to be only sub-optimal.
Leaders might consider taking a macro view of their calendar and make sure they are giving adequate time to their leadership function. That means you have open time on your calendar and that time can then be used for quality engagement activities with your people, including empowering and delegating activities. Some leaders leave 25% of their calendar open for the leadership function. At Leaders247 we believe a leader should strive to open up as much as 50% of their calendar and they should use that time to do “leadership.”
To recap when to delegate: As often as possible.
From Leaders247 Podcast
Full podcast episode: Good Leadership is Tied to Talent