The Art of Delegating

Sometimes it’s hard to let go, especially of something you’ve been doing for a long time, something you are proud of, or something that has helped define you as a leader.  But the time comes when it’s necessary to let go, to delegate, and turn the baton over so that you can move on to greater things.

Knowing when to do this and who to choose to take over for you is very important.  There are a few things to consider:

  1. The individual you turn this over to should be ready, willing, and able to take over for you.  This doesn’t always mean it’s the individual with the title – it could be someone with administrative skills, someone that you believe has potential, has demonstrated skills in the past, and has been asking for more responsibilities.  Sometimes we choose who to delegate to because they are ‘next’ on the list or have more seniority.  Don’t be afraid to look for someone that is not on the ‘usual’ list of suspects.  This may mean that you have to manage the message with those that will perceive that they have been overlooked.  Seeking advice from other leaders on your team can help you sidestep any issues this may cause.
  2. Be explicit in your expectations for deliverables and be willing to hold the individual accountable.  Let them know how you like to communicate, how often you expect updates, and that you are there to help them if they need it.  
  3. Once you turn over the responsibility, you must meet with the individual regularly to monitor their progress, help them manage any issues that have come up, and ensure they have the resources they need to get the job done.  Don’t hover or micromanage.  Acknowledge that the individual will have a different style than you or may have a different skill set.  As long as the job gets done and the individual delivers – it’s all good.
  4. Be prompt in giving feedback.  Don’t wait until it’s too late or time has gone by. And if the person is not delivering, don’t be afraid to take it back and assign it to someone else.  

In sum, successful leaders don’t do it alone.  Success is a team sport.  Learning the art and science of delegation early can help free you (and your team) do more great things.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you are expected to do it all or that delegating is not what good leaders do.  In fact, delegating is part of a leader’s core competencies.  The art of delegating is a critical part of coaching, mentoring, and developing new leaders including your successor.

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