by Sam Warner, Toastmasters International
In my experience, staff are promoted into leadership roles and then develop them once there. This is despite the fact that a better approach is to give them the tools to do the job first and then promote them into the role once equipped. In the first scenario, the new leader is left unsupported and drowning. Newly promoted leaders often feel they must prove themselves by achieving a lot in their first year. However, they risk burn-out if they try to do it all themselves. A sign of a great leader is one who is confident enough to delegate effectively.
Delegation provides opportunities for people to feel empowered, supported and encouraged. It also gives the leader a chance to dial-down overwhelm and stress by spreading out the workload amongst the team.
Here are 8 tips to help you become a more effective delegator:
1. Clarify Direction
Be really clear about your vision and mission and share it with your team. If they understand the direction the team is going in, and the objectives that need to be achieved they will start to think about how they can contribute.
2. Ask for Help and Ideas
If employees feel respected they will offer to help you to achieve your objectives and goals. You have to be clear about what’s in it for them. They need to know you are the kind of leader who rewards effort and is there to help them succeed. There’s no room for insecurity or game playing if you want to be an effective leader who delegates easily. If they can see your vulnerable side, where you are not perfect, where you make mistakes and don’t have all the answers, they will know that you value consulting with them and leveraging their knowledge and experience when solving problems.
Also, you can build a culture of problem solving by being genuinely approachable and easy to work with. If you don’t want people to bring you problems to solve – ask your team to bring you solutions and ideas instead.
Ultimately, they will feel respected and valued.
3. First Steps
If you are new to the role of leader or you have a new team – don’t act like the proverbial bull in a china shop. Don’t start making changes in the first three months. Instead use this time to get to know the team, understand their ways of working, rules of engagement, foibles, and preferred communication styles and you’ll be able to appreciate their world as it stands – before you add to it. Really get to grips with their deliverables, and understand their touchpoints with other teams, their concerns and challenges. These steps will pay off massively in the long run.
4. Giving Feedback
If you can’t give great feedback that is useful and useable then it will become very challenging for you to delegate a second time. You need to give them specific examples of where things went well and why that was great or didn’t go so well, help them articulate how they might mitigate that in the future so that the issues melt away. Reward them, in a meaningful way, for their efforts. Deliver valuation and feedback that supports their career goals and identifies training and development opportunities.
5. Skill Building
Is there a task that needs to be done that uses a very specific skill set – even if you have someone with the skills already – is this a chance to upskill a more junior member of the team? By ensuring that you have no silos (individuals with special skill sets that are potential single-point-of-failures if absent), delegating tasks across the team will upskill them and ensure that no-one, when they return from holiday or other absence, is faced with a pile of work – because it’s been absorbed by the team. This will create a harmonious team working environment where everyone feels like their teammates have their backs. When people are in this mindset – they are willing to take on other initiatives to help. It reduces stress and absenteeism as an added bonus!
6. Explain Why Before How
You should feel comfortable explaining the why – so the employee can see how it fits in to the bigger picture and can feel part of something beyond themselves. If the task you are asking them to do serves no purpose and hangs over from the past “We’ve always done it” then reassess it and define its value before asking someone to spend time on something seemingly pointless.
When delivering instructions for a task be specific about the desired end result. Clearly outline accountability, responsibility and authority. Be very clear on touch points/milestones and deadlines and get them in the diary. Organise a review once the work has ended so you can give feedback).
7. The Right Person to Delegate To
Getting to know your team will help you to build mutual rapport, trust and respect. These will help you decide whom to delegate to as you’ll know if they are able to cope with the work, or if it’s too much of a stretch – both in workload and difficulty. Take time to get to know how they like to be rewarded and why they come to work every day – then you will understand what words to choose when you are being persuasive and encouraging to them. There’s no point in overloading someone with too much work or give them a lot of new things – you’ll just watch them fall. It’s important to get to know your employees’ limitations so that you can push them a little but not drown them. Choose with care.
8. And Finally
Understanding your impact on others will greatly enhance your charisma, your ability to delegate effectively and your listening skills. Seek to understand first, then question. Listening is the most useful skill you can cultivate. It validates the person speaking and makes them feel heard. It means you can be a safe sounding board for your team. Feedback isn’t a way process so ask your team for their feedback and respond if you can, so they know you are listening and adapting. Let the team see how you interact with senior members of staff so you can show by example how you would like to be treated. Most leaders are followers too.
Always remember that you are there to make decisions and be the leader of the team. When things get busy you need to keep focused on delegating, sharing work appropriately, and not attempting to do it all yourself.
Sam Warner is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland.
Members follow a structured educational program to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit Toastmasters International. You can follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.