Mon 11 February 2019
In this guest post, Paul Fitzgerald from Wundamail discusses the benefits of learning to delegate.
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Have you ever been managed by a control freak? Someone so desperate to oversee every single detail of every single decision? It can be a drag. A real bad influence. Control freaks don’t make friends easily. Not in work, anyway. Their influence on everybody else becomes toxic pretty soon, and before you know it, they lose the team. It’s such a negative way to work, and it shows poor leadership skills. A good leader doesn’t take every task on themselves. A good leader doesn’t block people out of the job, so they themselves can micro-manage every minute twist and turn. They shouldn't seem so reluctant to step aside and trust their staff or peers to do their job.
The more I write this, the angrier I get. I’ve worked with and for people like this. If I’m honest though, on some occasions, I’ve also been a person like this. Maybe we all have.
Here at Wundamail, we know a thing or two about getting things done at work. We’ve put together some essential tips for opening up delegation pathways in your team, because great things happen when we talk.
Maybe you’re a manager with a team of skilled, willing and enthusiastic employees under you. Maybe there’s a big project on, a really big deal to focus on. So, you have all the meetings, the emails do the rounds, and everybody knows their role and what they have to do. The trouble really begins when the project starts and you realise the awful truth. You can’t delegate. Its an itch you can't scratch. It doesn't feel right. You just can’t find yourself able to just trust everybody to do their jobs. I’ve definitely been one of these people. And the mad thing is, they know what they're doing. I certainly did, but I couldn't stop myself. Control freaks know full well what they’re doing. They know they can’t help themselves. They just find it so difficult to delegate.
It’s actually quite a natural trait, it's within us all. We don’t want to give control away, or to leave things to other people. We know we can perform the task, and we can’t find it in ourselves to let somebody else. This is a particularly common problem in owners of small businesses. But we can’t do everything. Nobody can. Apart from anything else, the stress would be unbearable. If the business is to prosper, then we must learn to delegate.
Delegation is a key leadership skill. Not only key, in fact. It’s absolutely crucial. The ability to get through a project by entrusting roles to the team, and supporting them in those roles, leaves the manager free to concentrate their energies on more strategic areas. Not everyone can delegate though. Not easily, anyway. According to John Hunt, a London Business School professor, just 30% of managers think of themselves as good delegators, and of that 30%, a mere third are thought as good delegators by their staff. Which basically means only one in ten is actually any good at it. That’s amounts to a whole lot of control freakery goin on.
All too often, managers invent barriers to prevent themselves delegating work out, because they find themselves reluctant to give up control. Well, all that does of course, is give them more work to do. It’s counter productive, because it means that people with the necessary skills to do the tasks aren't able to do them. Which only serves to leave them disillusioned and unfocused. So managers’ fear leads them to come up with an array of reasons to avoid delegation.
So how do we learn to let go, to pass things over for someone else to deal with? How do we learn, as managers, to become the end of the road, rather than the whole of the road? Well, firstly we need to ignore the fear of losing control. Step back from the task and see things for how they are. We are NOT the only person who can carry these tasks out, and we DON’T actually need a lot of that control. It's not about us.
Managers need to remember in all of this is that they will be judged by how well they delegate. Delegation makes people productive. It gets stuff done. If you, as a manager know how to delegate and do it well, you’ll be seen in a better light. It’s a big positive. A major plus point. Your ability to delegate influences your career path, salary and your future in management. So its important to get used to relinquishing some of that control. It won’t make you any less powerful, either. More like the opposite, if anything.
Starting from the beginning, managers should decide which tasks are to be delegated. It’s not as obvious as it sounds. The idea is to free your time, and your mind up so you can focus on the more critical tasks. Work out what needs doing and play to people’s strengths and experience. Use their skills. This is a good opportunity to let people prove themselves, and for you, their manager, to learn more about them.
If you’re managing people and are looking to delegate, you need to remember that it starts with trust. Give the task over wholly, not incrementally. Let your staff take some autonomy, and give them the chance to develop their skills and to do the job in their own way. Simply telling someone to do the job as you would isn’t delegating, it’s micro managing, or yes again, control freakery! Trust is everything here.
Once you've decided which tasks will be delegated to who, the next step is to give good, clear instruction on how the task needs to be completed. They need enough information to make them feel trusted and supported, but not so much that they feel overwhelmed and that you’re already breathing down their neck. It's a thin line, a fine balance. Always make sure that delegated tasks are milestone led, with an agreed deadline and a plan for feedback during and after the task has been completed.
That essential element, that all-important trust element involved in delegation comes easy when the full responsibility and authority for the task is also delegated over. Full ownership will bring good results, as it leads to the team member feeling better trusted and supported, as well as giving managers the chance to manage across the team.
Credit where credit’s due. Full, written credit for the successful completion of the task will help build the team. It will show you to be the manager who recognises and appreciates the good work performed by the team. It strengthens the team, and tightens the bonds between individuals. And crucially, productivity is increased.
Delegation is nothing to be scared of. At the end of the day, your role as a leader is to get the most from your people to help the company and individuals to grow. It’s your job to maintain productivity levels, and to keep your team strong. Your job is to be good at your job. And just because you’re good at something, it doesn’t mean that only you can carry that task out. Learn to trust, and to give. To give the opportunity for growth, to give support and to give feedback and to trust your people to live up to your hopes and expectations.
Learn to delegate. Go on, just (get someone else to) do it.
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