Delegation: You Can’t Grow Unless You Have People Who You Allow to Grow With You

The single most critical leadership skill in growing companies is delegation. The absence of this skill in the CEO or any of the executive team causes more companies to stall out or plateau than any other reason. The good news, however, is that a leader doesn’t need to be born with delegation skills; these skills can be developed. It requires commitment and an effective process.

The reason why so many executives avoid delegating is because it can feel like a loss of control. Most executives legitimately believe they can do something faster and better than their subordinates. The problem is that as a leader, the job isn’t to do things, but rather get things done through other people and develop those people. While “doing it yourself” can be justified it can also be used merely as an excuse for not practicing solid leadership.

By trying four simple things, leaders can learn effective delegation. The four keys to effective delegation are:

  • Clarity
  • Feedback
  • Measurement
  • Recognition

Clarity – Make sure at the very start that the person you are delegating to clearly understands what the goal is. You must ensure clear understanding between both parties about exactly what the person is to accomplish, the timeframe, feedback required, etc. Great leaders know that even after they have explained what they want accomplished and the person has indicated they understand, there is one more key question to ask: “Please repeat back to me what it is that I have just asked you to do.” Remember great leaders delegate results not tasks.

Feedback – When you delegate, you do so based on the person’s proven ability to handle a task. To reduce risk you need regular feedback while the person is working on the delegated assignment. The frequency and amount of feedback should also be different from person to person – depending on their experience level. So for a very experienced individual you might ask them to stop by your office every three weeks and give you a quick update on how they are doing. But you might ask a new or less experienced individual to give you a five minute briefing every week or two. And the person you have delegated to needs to “own” the responsibility to provide feedback to you.

Measurement – People need to clearly understand your risk tolerance for the goal they are working on. They need to understand what kind of things you want and need to hear about, or things that you don’t need to know about.

Recognition – When people take on an assignment and do it well, you should publicly recognize what they have done. Remember, the job of leaders is to develop people, and delegating goals is a growth opportunity that helps do that.

Every leader needs to realize that one of the most critical parts of his or her job is growing people and the organization, by delegating. And by doing rather than delegating, the next level of managers will never grow and be prepared for greater responsibility. By simply following a process and having discipline, a leader can become very skilled at delegation – and more valuable to his or her organization.

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