Ever feel frustrated when trying to delegate to your team? Or feel like you’ve become a nag, always checking up on them? Or that you might as well, “Just do it yourself,” because it’s faster and easier that way?
Every leader I’ve ever known has felt that way. But questions like these do raise a critical issue for us, “If one of the keys to growing a business (or organization) is to multiply our efforts through leveraging the time, talents and energies of other people, then why are we having such a difficult time with delegating?”
If we’re not giving people authority and responsibility, if we’re not multiplying our efforts, and/or if we’re not creating massive leverage, then we’ve got a major problem that strikes right at the heart of effective leadership. So, what’s the way out?
I’ve found that there are three critical distinctions that I’ve been repeating with clients recently. The first is obvious (but not practiced), whereas the other two are less common. So if you no longer want to “do it all by yourself,” then you’ll want to employ all three of these distinctions.
1. Remember that Delegation and Dumping are not the same thing. Most executives dump, they don’t delegate–and there is a difference. A dumper finds something they don’t like doing or don’t have time for and “assigns” the task to someone lower on the “food chain” than them.
A delegator, on the other hand, is someone who wants to build and develop another person. They don’t just “assign” (I mean, dump) a task, they delegate out both the authority and responsibility for the task, convey their expectations, offer any required resources, and provide on-going coaching. The difference is night and day. So if you’ve been frustrated with your delegating attempts lately, you might want to ask yourself, “Have I been dumping or delegating?” Be honest!
2. Make the Delegatee the one responsible for follow up. Not doing this is one of the major mistakes that a lot of leader/executives make, which is why they often feel like they’ve become a “nag.” The way they’ve set up the relationship (“I dump, you do”), creates a setting where the exec is still the one responsible. A better option is to engage the delegatee in the process of designing the accountability system.
For example, after you’ve successfully delegated (not dumped) a task/project, you might ask, “So, what kind of accountability system do you want to set up? When will this be done? You set the date. And then, how will you let me know when certain milestones are reached? Again, you set up the timeline and the structure. I just need to know.”
Did you notice the difference? It’s huge! They create the system and they have to report to you (not vice versa). Now, if the timeline they create is too long or if the frequency or means of communication isn’t acceptable to you, then negotiate. But at the end of the day, you want them to self-police and report to you (not the reverse).
3. Change Your Expectations. You and I get what we expect, not what we want. So, what do you expect from your employees? If you’re like most of the execs I know, and you’re honest, you’ll probably say something like, “I expect them to not get [what I assigned to them] done on time (or not to my standards or I expect them to be lazy, etc.). And then we wonder, “Why do my people fail me?”
The amazing thing about expectations is that they do influence our behaviors, whether we clearly say so or not.
For example, a few weeks ago I asked my teenage daughter to work on a presentation I had to do. I asked her a week out. She said, “Yes.” I asked her several days ahead, “Now, you’re still planning to get those slides done on Wednesday, right?” “Yes, dad!” Then the day of, “So, you’ll get those slides done tonight, right?” “Yes, Dad.” Then later that evening, “So, are you going to get those slides started? I need them tomorrow.” “Got it covered Dad.” Well, at 11:30 p.m. I finally said, “Why don’t you go to bed. I’ll take care of getting them done (which I did at 1:30 a.m. :-(.
Where was my fatal flaw? In my expectations. I never actually said, “I don’t think you’ll get them done on time.” However, by my incessant asking I just as well might have.
So, do you want to take your delegating to the next level? If you do, use all three of these distinctions for a triple play and I’m confident you’ll experience a whole new level of productivity.
To your accelerated success!