The big, scary D word… Delegation.

delegation spooky

‘Tis the season of ghosts and goblins! What are you afraid of? Spiders? Bats? Zombies?

How about something REALLY scary—giving up control!

Now I’m exaggerating, of course. But there IS one thing that can make many business managers get a little nervous.

I’m talking about the “D word”: Delegation. And it can make even the strongest leader shake in their boots.

Leaders often justify their resistance to delegation with a laundry list of “what ifs.” What if they are not ready to take on the task? What if it’s just faster or easier to just do it myself?

What if I feel guilty about handing more work over to an already overworked team? Or what if they think I’m just being lazy?

We’ve all been there, right? But the truth is: delegation is necessary. For you. For your team. And for your personal brand as a leader.

Your personal brand, you say? Yes! But you can delegate in a way that feels less like a trick and more like a treat (for both you and your team). Here are some tips to help you take the scary parts out of delegating so you can elevate your work, team and brand effectively.

Delegation builds trust and confidence.

First, let’s talk about what delegation is. When done well, delegation helps you actually build trust and confidence in your team and leave you less overworked and burned out. This gives you more capacity to do those things only YOU can do. And it improves your team’s feelings of being valued.

But how do you choose what to delegate? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the task something someone else really CAN do? Or is it important that you do it? Try to be really honest with yourself here. Sometimes others could and should be doing something, but we tell ourselves that only WE can do it correctly.
  • Is the task something that could be outsourced, or handled using new technology, to increase efficiency? Walk away from “that’s the way we’ve always done it” thinking.
  • Would this task help someone on your team to grow and develop their skills? And can you afford to let them drop the ball as a growth opportunity? Let’s face it: how will they learn and grow if we are always doing the work for them?
  • Will this task or project be recurring in the future, or will it need someone’s ongoing attention? You may not always have the time or bandwidth to be the number one go-to for this project, so think ahead.
  • Do you have time to delegate effectively? Can you coach your assignee, give them a reasonable deadline, and provide adequate feedback? This is the essence of leadership and the basis of how you will create your leadership legacy.

Delegation is not simply bossing people around

Delegation is an important management tool. When you ask someone to take on a project, it does two important things: it increases their autonomy and frees up time for you to complete tasks that only you can do. Delegating work to someone can even foster their professional development.

But delegation is an important skill, both for leaders and their employees. However, the fact is many leaders fear they will be seen as “bossy.” This frequently happens to women and is one reason they are less likely to delegate than men.

Delegation is critical to moving forward and can be achieved without being “bossy.” Here are some key steps to ensure your delegation is effective and beneficial for you and your team.

  1. Discernment: The first step is knowing what tasks are good to delegate and which are not. Think about your team’s strengths and where they might need growth or additional training before delegating a task. Is it the right fit? What will you need to coach them on before they can complete the task successfully?
  1. Communication: Communication requires both talking and listening. Explain why this project or task is important, why you have asked them to do it, what the expectations are, and what the checkpoints and deadlines are. And then….listen. Do they understand what you are asking? Do they need something from you to do what you have asked?
  1. Responsibility and authority: Clearly define their level of responsibility is: what they have the authority to make decisions on, and what they need to run by you. Battle the urge to micro-manage! Set clear expectations for responsibility and a plan to monitor progress along the way.
  1. Instruction and resources: Set them up for success! Make sure you provide clear direction. Show them some examples of the successful way to complete the task. Model some of the work with them. Give them the tools and resources they need to do a good job.
  1. Give feedback: The worst thing you can do is delegate a project and never speak of it again. Give them feedback and make sure it’s clear and useful. If they’ve done well, it validates them; and if they haven’t, it shows them how to improve. This not only helps them but will increase both your confidence in them and their own self-confidence.
  1. Time Management: Make sure the time frames you set are realistic and leave extra time for feedback and correction along the way.
  1. Reflect and correct: After the project is done, review the process for lessons learned. And don’t forget to celebrate successes!

Delegation helps everyone AND supports your personal brand as a leader

When you empower your team by handing things over to them, you’ll build a team that feels more capable and competent. There’s even evidence that delegation can help your team members increase their level of performance, too.

Remember, you’re trying to create a culture of teamwork where more work gets done in less time. When you delegate, you model for others how leadership is done correctly, and that’s exactly the kind of brand anyone would be happy to work for and follow (and be less scared… see what we did there?)

And don’t forget, if you need help with your personal leadership brand, check out my new book, Sell Yourself. Because when it comes to delegation, you need to face your fears–we can deal with the ghosts and goblins later!

Face that big, scary “D word”—delegation—you’ll be happy you did.

And don’t forget to grow big or go home!