The Art of Delegation

Trust_DelegateThere truly is no “I” in team, unless of course, you are terrible at delegating responsibility; in which case you actually are a team of one by choice. Delegation is critical to being a successful, healthy leader, yet it’s one of the most challenging aspects as well. As we progress in our careers and take on leadership responsibility, we build more and more confidence in our own abilities. Additionally, we see how we have out-performed our coworkers, which leaves us less confident in their abilities. When this happens, it becomes easy to hoard responsibility.

Nothing stalls growth and fuels burnout like believing you’re the only one competent enough to get the job done.It’s easy to assign blame to the team members. You may say they don’t have the experience you do. You may claim that the project/responsibility is too large and the consequences are too great. You may even say that it’s faster and easier to just get things done yourself. But those are all excuses. If you aren’t delegating enough responsibility, then the first place you need to look is within.

Here are some questions you need to ask yourself:
1) Have I done the work? Many leaders fail to delegate because they don’t take time to properly train, coach, and mentor their team. It takes time and energy to educate someone else on how to handle a certain task. You can trick yourself into thinking you save time by just doing it yourself, but the reality is that if you do the work upfront by properly training someone, then you can be confident that they will be successful when you fully hand over the responsibility.

2) What kind of culture am I creating? When you fail to delegate, you are essentially telling the team that you lack confidence in their abilities and don’t have time to invest in them. Those employees will identify the lack of trust and realize that without new responsibilities their career track will stall. Those employees will either stay and their skills will never progress or they will become a flight risk.

3) Am I being a good mentor? Oprah Winfrey once said “a mentor is someone who allows you to see the light inside yourself.” Delegating stretch assignments and giving feedback along the way helps your team members realize their strengths and see their own future through your support.

4) Am I afraid of losing control? The fear of losing control is one of the biggest reasons new leaders fail to delegate. However, delegating doesn’t mean handing over all responsibility and walking away. A good leader delegates, clearly communicates expectations, and checks in consistently to ensure progress. Staying involved will calm those initial fears about losing control while also giving the team member time to learn the ropes with a safety net. Over time, you will become more confident and need to check in less.

5) Am I hogging the spotlight? It is common for leaders in a volatile environment to hoard responsibility because they want to “own” all potential successes. The lack of security makes leaders believe that if they delegate responsibility, they will be seen as disposable. However, sharing success is crucial to the overall satisfaction and success of the team. When you delegate smaller tasks, you free yourself up to think more strategically about the future of the organization. Besides, the better your team looks, the better you look.

Regardless of the reason, a failure to delegate is a failure to lead. Be confident in the team you’ve assembled. Communicate your expectations, check in periodically, and encourage them to take on more responsibility. When you show your team that you trust them, they will trust you more as well.