Effective delegation is a vital skill to scale your efforts as a leader.
As with any skill, it takes practice to get right, and it’s certainly something you can get wrong. Bad delegation is an abrogation of responsibility, it leaves people confused and uncertain, and it’s a super quick way to confirm any rumours that management is ‘out of touch’.
Good delegation is a powerful way to develop people in your organisation, and to get them ready to take on aspects of your role, so you can step up to the next level yourself.
Look out for opportunities that align to the development needs of the person you wish to delegate to. That could be their strengths to take to the next level, or it could be a gap where they need to show stronger competencies on a wider stage.
Early on, it can be hard to let go. Use the 70% rule. If you think the person is going to be at least 70% as effective as you, then they are ready to take on the delegation. Don’t wait until they are 100% ready, especially if you lean towards perfectionism. This is because your judgement is going to be somewhat off, if you think 70%, it’s more likely they are just about there, and if you think they are 100%, then it’s likely they were really ready a long time ago.
Also, start small. Don’t delegate a year long project, start with something that runs for a few weeks at most. It’ll be easier to track progress, and failure here is likely to be less than catastrophic.
To ensure a good delegation experience, you need to set solid expectations, you need to show trust and you need to verify what’s going on. It’ll be rocky the first few times, so check-in on these as you go, and don’t be afraid to reflect and correct.
- Expectation – This sets clear boundaries, you explain what the goals are, what the parameter are and especially what success and failure looks like.
- Trust – You then need to give space to the person to achieve the outcome. They won’t do it like you would, so don’t micromanage
- Verify – Trust the process, check-in on the progress. Agree when you’ll do this as part of the expectation setting, and scale it based on the importance and duration of the task. Daily check-ins on a yearlong project are probably too often, but might not be for a week long effort. Make sure it’s close enough together to enable easy course correction, but far enough apart to avoid constraining creativity.
Use these techniques, and you are much more likely to turn delegation into a great development opportunity rather than an abrogation of responsibility.