How Do I Delegate Better?
June 14, 2021
I was in a coaching conversation with one of my mentees a few days back, and he wanted some help on figuring out when to delegate and when not to delegate.
His challenge was that his team was young, and without much experience. He was uncomfortable delegating tasks to his relatively inexperienced team because he was not sure if they could cope. Unfortunately, he had become a choke point for a lot of work and this was overwhelming him. He was looking for some guidance on the how to get better at delegating.
Through the conversation, I helped him with a mental framework of five questions he could ask himself to decide on whether some task was appropriate to delegate or not.
- Is the task critical for the long-term success of my team and me ? E.g., Hiring the right people, writing the strategy or full year plan.
- Is there anyone in my team who has some basic skills to execute this task?
- Do I have enough time to complete the task while correcting gaps, guiding, monitoring progress, and reworking the work done by the team members if necessary?
- Is the task one-off, or is it repetitive?
- Will doing a task help my team member grow and improve the skills and expertise necessary for future growth?
If the answer to question No one is Yes, don’t delegate.
If the answers to any of the questions 2 to 5 are a yes, actively consider delegating the task.
While the five questions can operate as a framework to help one delegate, there is a more fundamental point to consider.
Many struggle to delegate effectively is because they are not ready to assume responsibility for the actions of others. Pushing this point further, you will be prepared to take responsibility for the someone’s actions only if you trust that person. Therefore, If you don’t trust the other person, you will not be willing to delegate.
So, at the core, people who struggle to delegate are those who don’t trust their teams.
When you delegate tasks and work to someone, there is always an inherent risk of that person making mistakes. No one can learn and grow without committing errors, and unless you come to terms with this reality, you will never become good at delegation.
The delegation process can be very empowering when
- you trust your team members enough and have confidence in their abilities AND,
- You are comfortable with the prospect of your teammates making mistakes, and you are ready to take responsibility for the consequences.