Delegating should be the ultimate goal of every leader. When delegating appropriately, it means the employee has enough knowledge and engagement to complete the task without help. And that frees the leader up to do other things. Priceless.
I see a lot of leaders who don't delegate properly, and in the end decide to "just do it myself" because delegating is too much of a hassle. Stop! If you are frustrated and want to just do the task yourself, you're not delegating correctly. Try these tips to improve how you delegate:
1. Make sure the employee has enough knowledge to actually achieve the goal. Recently a coworker shared a situation where her boss had given her a project to manage with an outside consultant without giving her the context or expectations. She didn't know what to do and felt overwhelmed because she wasn't sure what was supposed to be done. Her boss didn't check in or answer emails, which was even more frustrating. What do you think happened?
2. Make sure the employee is motivated enough to follow through. Here's what happened - she stopped caring. She was so frustrated that she stopped making an agenda for project meetings and stopped answering email after hours from the consultant. After a month her boss stepped in and reprimanded her for not doing a better job and took over the project himself. After this happened, How do you think the boss felt about the employee, and how do you think she felt about her boss?
3. Check in. Good delegating isn't just a hand off. Leaders still need to check in with the employee to make sure they aren't struggling and to clear roadblocks. I see too many leaders who don't think they need to check in with an employee once they've handed off a task because they view delegation as being completely hands off (which is what happened to my colleague).
4. Ask the right questions. With delegation comes autonomy, which means that when checking in, the leader should be the one who talks the least. Asking good, open-ended questions will help make the meeting productive:
- What would you like to talk about? Tell me what you're most excited about this week.
- What feedback have you been getting? Who else should know about this?
- Where do you want more influence?
- What do you need from me to make this easier?
- How do you want to keep me informed?
5. Give positive feedback. Employees who have high knowledge and high engagement don't need their hand held. They do everything right, are self-motivated, and work best when you don't step in. But that doesn't mean they don't need positive feedback. Be sure to say "I so appreciate ..." or "You have made a major contribution by ..." regularly so they know they're doing a good job. Everyone loves to hear that their leader appreciates what they've done.