THE BLOG

In Delegation We Trust?

05/20/2014 02:57 pm ET | Updated Jul 20, 2014

A few months back, I delivered a leadership seminar to executives on the topic of administrative mentorship. In the conversation, I asked the leaders in the room whether they delegate as much as they should. When the majority responded to the negative, I probed further.

Using a think-pair-share technique, the participants were asked to complete the following sentence. "I would delegate more if I..." I received these primary responses:

  1. Trusted my colleagues more
  2. Wasn't so controlling
  3. Had more time to think about what to delegate
  4. Knew how

This feedback was not surprising. Article after article speak about the challenges for leaders and small business owners to relinquish control and delegate. Why? Delegation is a foreign concept for many who think that they need to hold all of the cards or to have their spoons in every pot. Those who are willing to share responsibility may not invest the time into doing so strategically or may not even know how to go about it.

Trust is one crucial element to effective delegation and teamwork. You have to believe in your people in order to empower them. But it takes more than willingness and trust to delegate effectively. Others important components include:

  • Decide what to delegate - Start with a small project or one that doesn't have to be completed in a specific way. This keeps the temperature low and the end goal in sight.
  • Pick the right person or group - Take time to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the members of your team. Select those that you're confident can do the job well. They should be self-motivated and comfortable working without constant supervision.
  • Provide clarity about the expected outcome - Include timelines and deliverables and provide a template or guidelines for the project. The more that you can spell out in detail, the less the risk of subsequent confusion or error.
  • Grant the necessary authority - Supply the control and leeway for your coworker to find the best approach on his own. This increases his creativity and initiative while boosting his self-esteem.
  • Be prepared to assist - You may need to delegate the task as a whole, but can often still assist here or there. Also, make sure to offer proper training to build skill and efficacy for the task designees.
  • Monitor progress - Stay on top of things and correct / redirect when necessary. This motivates colleagues (who don't feel abandoned) and helps you catch problems early. Obviously, inexperienced colleagues will need tighter control than seasoned veterans.
  • Recognize key milestones and celebrate successes - Anything from a simple 'thank you' or 'well done' to arranging for awards, gifts or bonuses.

A recent study published in the Gallup Business Journal found that the most cohesive and successful teams possess broader groupings of strengths, rather than one dominant leader who tries to do everything or individuals who all have similar strengths.

The process of building a well-informed and properly trained team allows leaders to harness various talents and perspectives for the collective good. It may be challenging at first, but will pay great dividends over time while also alleviating some of the crushing burden that often sits on a leader's shoulders.

Naphtali Hoff (@impactfulcoach) served as an educator and school administrator for over 15 years before becoming an executive coach and consultant. Read his blog at impactfulcoaching.com/blog.