Delegating can be both liberating and stressful. How do you walk that fine line of delegating — providing guidance to another individual or a team and managing risks — without micromanaging? Here are five tips to help keep you from falling off this tightrope.
Invest up Front to Build a Competent Team, Capable of Delivering Results
Effective delegation starts with a foundation of a competence to perform the work. Ask yourself what is truly required for success here; then, do everything in your power to delegate to people who are capable to perform the work, based on their aptitude, interest, expertise, experience and innate ways of taking action. Consider using a validated strengths assessment to help ensure fit, especially for any high-stakes role. Provide whatever tools may be required to support success, including training and coaching, to help employees grow into their role.
Be Clear on What Success Will Look Like — at Every Stage of the Project
Sit down with your team and invite them to describe what success looks like. Rather than providing complicated metrics, challenge them to identify a handful of straightforward success indicators that are observable (even by someone who is not on the team). Then, ask them, “What are indicators we should watch for along the way that will tell us if the project is on track or beginning to go sideways?” Periodically revisit this conversation with the team, and train them to develop the habit of continually asking themselves how they will know the effort is succeeding.
Stay Close to the Team — and the Customer
Managers often step too far away from the work in their effort not to micromanage. Rather than delegating, they end up abdicating responsibility, giving too much latitude to a team that needs their guidance and direction. This situation can lead to disastrous results at a high price.
Instead, determine how you would like your team to keep you informed on the project. How often will you meet, and what type of update should the team give you? What would they like from you? Actively reach out along the way to solicit feedback from the team as well as key customers and stakeholders. If they’re delighted, great. If not, they will tell you — while you still have time to intervene. Remember that delegating may still require close involvement in the work, especially on the front end. It’s just that rather than doing it yourself, you are empowering others to accomplish results.
Take Action to Intervene When Needed
When delegating, remember that you are still ultimately accountable. It’s your job to mentor and guide. It’s not the team’s fault if members are not qualified to deliver success, so take responsibility — through swift action — if someone stumbles.
While you can influence the conditions for success, they are not necessarily in your control. Should the team encounter significant issues requiring intervention, it helps to have a set of options prepared in advance so you can move quickly to stabilize the project. Anticipate what could go wrong, and have a have a plan B at the ready. For example, create a “back-of-the-napkin” succession plan from the start so that the team does not miss a beat if a star player leaves the project or a person you placed in a key role does not work out. Time does not solve problems; be prepared to take action immediately when required.
Make It Fun
Recognition is a key component of accountability. People shine when their contributions are acknowledged and recognized. A 2013 study of more than 1,200 workers showed that 83% value recognition above monetary rewards, and 90% are “very or extremely” motivated by a fun workplace. Throw a party when the team accomplishes major milestones. Spread the word about specific successes and what makes them noteworthy. Make it fun to be a part of the d team.
Delegating is not “set it and forget it” management, but neither should it lead to micromanagement. Stay close enough to your team members to support them and monitor both risks and progress, while giving them enough space to fly, and you will be delighted — and maybe surprised — when they “wow” you. You may even experience the gift of witnessing the emergence of tomorrow’s leaders before your eyes.