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Every Leader Must Delegate Well: 4 Tips to Become Effective

08/20/2014 10:16 pm ET | Updated Oct 20, 2014
  • Steve Caldwell Executive mentor and coach to managers and leaders who desire to excel in their career and become the leader others want to follow

I've observed time and time again that so many new (and some not so new) managers struggle with delegating. They've never been taught that it means more than giving your subordinates "stuff off your to do list."

I hope you'll read and take action on the tips here, because if you're in management and you don't learn how to delegate effectively, you are severely limiting your career potential.

1. Get clear on your strengths and the strengths of each person on your team. This may take a bit of time, as strengths are evidenced by what a person does easily and well, and consequently loves to do it. I used to lead a sales group, and we were having regular celebrations for sales success. There were two people in the group who loved planning parties, and they were great at throwing them. So I willingly and gladly let them plan the get-togethers for the group. They loved doing it, they did a great job, and it helped to keep my team motivated and rewarded.

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2. Once you get clear on each person's strengths (other strengths may become aware to you over time), begin assigning tasks from your desk to complement the strengths of each individual. Each person may not be completely prepared to accept the full task, and this is where training comes in. Assign to them what they are well-suited for, and take time to train them on the next step of what they need to learn. Once they do that well, challenge them with the next aspect of that task, and so forth. Now you've begun taking steps toward developing people to create a stronger team, not just delegating tasks.

3. As a manager, you want to continually up your productivity. Becoming more efficient with the time available is the challenge. As you continue to use your time more wisely, keep siphoning tasks from your desk onto the desks of your team. Do the appropriate teaching and training as they are learning new aspects of the job. This is the ongoing process of developing people and preparing them for the next level of their career.

4. As individual team members continue to do these new tasks better and better, your confidence and trust in their abilities grows. Now you know they are ready to handle the authority that comes along with that task. You are moving away from delegating just a task to delegating the authority that goes along with it. Allocate a budget they can spend without having to get further authorization. Allow them to make decisions along the way and not have to consult you. You know what they will encounter while performing the project, so give them the appropriate level of authority to get it done.

When you approach delegation in this manner, you are moving away from only managing tasks to leading a team. Work to structure your schedule so that the majority of your time is spent in one-on-ones with each team member, being sure they are moving forward with their projects and goals, and you are intercepting roadblocks and paving the way for them to accomplish their responsibilities.

This is how leaders mature, and this is how team members grow to become future managers and leaders. Be the leader of leaders, and be the leader others want to follow.

Need help in other areas of leading a team? Start here to begin taking the steps to becoming a great leader. Contrary to some beliefs, leaders are made, not born.

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