Learning how to delegate is nothing short of an existential crisis for some leaders. Upon being pressed to delegate more, leaders’ minds can flood with fear-fueled questions: What if they do it wrong and embarrass me? Conversely, what if they do it better than me?
As leaders, we worry an employee’s failure will reflect poorly on us. Rather than delegate more, we cling to control and feel overworked. After all, doing too much feels less risky than not enough.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we fear our teams can outperform us. By constantly rolling up your sleeves, you shield yourself from the knowledge that employees can indeed do it better. Working yourself to the bone is much better than realizing your value is bone-dry.
They say “the truth will set you free,” and this is particularly true with delegation. To delegate effectively, it’s essential to embrace the fundamental truth that your teams can often do it better. They are on the ground and much more attuned to what works and what doesn’t. They understand nuances in a way you simply can’t.
It’s been interesting to witness how the social distancing constraints of COVID-19 have forced leaders into releasing the reins on their teams, revealing revelations that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. For example, one client had grown accustomed to visiting the firm’s offices around the world. Without the ability to travel, the leader had no choice but to afford his team more independence.
The result was twofold:
- The team improved its customer service performance.
- In turn, the leader was able to focus more time on the bigger picture, instituting new customer service models and developing a deeper relationship with the company’s chief information officer.
Being a leader is not about being controlling—it’s about having the courage to be accountable. It might sound scary, but you can overcome your fear of delegation and become a better leader. Here are some tips:
Realize your limits. You can’t go it alone. Trying to do too much on your own will result in burnout. Eventually carrying the weight of your team will crush your spirit. Delegate effectively to evenly distribute your resources, putting the right people on the right tasks at the right time.
Take baby steps. Delegation takes patience, practice, and persistence. It’s a skill you learn to master, like any other task. Begin to delegate with straightforward projects that won’t cause too much trepidation. Over time, delegation will begin to feel like second nature.
Be open-minded. You probably have a particular way of doing things, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way. Your team members will feel empowered when you accept their ways of accomplishing the same goals.
Set your team up for success. Your ability to delegate depends on your team having the tools they need to succeed. Embolden your team with the resources they need and cultivate a culture of communication and support.
Acknowledge your progress. You’ll begin to enjoy delegating when you recognize you are succeeding. Be sure to celebrate your successes along the way. Make a concerted effort to apply the time you saved on something you’ve been wanting to accomplish, but haven’t had the time.
Take pride in your team. The more you delegate the more your team will get to engage in exciting opportunities they have never had. When they succeed, recognize them.
Delegation doesn’t have to feel like you are losing something. Instead, see it as an opportunity to grow your leadership skills and your team’s capabilities. Let go to level up.