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I’ve worked for a number of good bosses. The great ones had one thing in common. They were master delegators. They knew how to perform at their level. They figured out the secret to performance was not doing everything themselves.

Most new managers don’t know, don’t care, or don’t want to delegate. Big mistake!

On the other hand. Most savvy leaders (like some of my previous bosses) do the opposite. They spread their work. They understand the importance of working at their level. They resist the urge to hold on to tasks. If they can delegate a task to someone, they choose that option.

If you want to become an effective delegator, you have to understand what it first means to delegate.

Delegation isn’t just “assigning tasks and responsibility”. Delegation is also building capability on your team and teaching everyone to work at their level. Including you.

One reason why busy managers don’t delegate is because delegation takes time and effort. Effective delegation is time-consuming in the beginning, however, a little bit of time investment and planning in the short run pays huge dividends in the long run.

As leaders, we have two options when it comes to spreading work:

  1. Delegate work to our team. This requires spending time teaching employees how to accomplish the task so they can get better and faster at their jobs.
  2. D.I.Y in the short run. This requires adding more workload to our plate by not assigning work to our team.

Risk of option #1 (Delegate)

  • Time investment up-front to teach employees.
  • Results might not meet your high standards.
  • You’ll have to let go of some of your expectations regarding the outcome till your employees catch up.
  • You’ll uplevel your team by increasing team capability.
  • You’ll reduce your workload in the long run.

Risk of option #2 (D.I.Y)

  • You’re stuck doing all the work.
  • You can’t find time to do the higher value work you should be doing.
  • Employees struggle due to lack of career growth and development.
  • Not a sustainable strategy in the long run.

[CHECKLIST] How can you become a better delegator?

Effective delegation requires seven specific steps.

  1. State your need for help
    • “Adam, I’d love your help on this key deliverable”
  2. Communicate what’s in it for your employee
    • “This is a great learning opportunity for you and one that gives you a lot of visibility”
  3. Describe the task in detail
    • I can’t stress enough the importance of this step (Most of us skim on the details)
  4. Clarify deadline and your expectations
    • Be very specific (You’re entrusting responsibility to another person)
  5. Discuss accountability
    • “I expect a bi-weekly update, where I’ll be specifically looking at the following areas”
  6. Discuss skill and training needs
    • “What type of support and training do you require to move forward?
  7. Ask for their commitment
    • “What do you think? Are you willing to tackle this one?

Once the handoff is complete, the best leaders will work hard to stay appropriately involved as the project matures. This is challenging and varies from task to task.

My best advice is to remain supportive throughout the process, this can oftentimes mean resisting from jumping in and fixing. Some occasions might require you to trust your gut and take control of the reins. Let your experience be the guide here.

When should you D.I.Y?

Sometimes it’s best not to delegate and take control of the situation. Following are some examples:

  1. The situation is urgent and you have a high level of expertise in it.
  2. There’s conflict on your team and team members are unable to resolve after trying.
  3. People need your executive decision to move forward.
  4. Decision carries a very high degree of risk for decision maker.

Remember, managing people is mired in nuance. There’s no silver bullet.

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