The art of delegation is a skill that many leaders need to learn to have in their arsenal, to achieve greater productivity and teamwork; more so in this period of remote working. Leaders tend to get overloaded and struggle to find time to focus on strategic tasks. However, many feel delegating is a sign of weakness or shirking tasks. Dr Hans Finzel says “Delegation is an issue of respect and how much we respect those that are under us on our team.” To add to that, as brought out in the discussions in the Inspired Leadership session I recently hosted, delegation is also about TRUST. You need to trust in your skills as a leader to delegate effectively, and also trust in those who are taking on more responsibility to implement your goals.
So let’s explore the what, why and how of delegation as this is a core concept for leaders. Louis Allen defines delegation as ‘The assignment of any authority to another person to carry out specific activities.’ Key in this statement is the mention of authority, because delegation without authority often brings it’s own challenges and is not as effective in achieving results. However, it is important to note that the person who delegated the work remains accountable for the outcome of the delegated work.
There are many reasons why we don’t delegate: lack of trust, feeling like it is quicker to do it ourselves, lack of time and the feeling that others don’t have the time and skills to do the job.
But there are many benefits to delegating: it develops skills in others, prepares successors and helps the team to feel valuable and more committed. And of course, it gets the job done.
Personally, when I realized that delegation was good for others, I was more willing to do it. This helped to build the skills in my team and freed me up to focus on more strategic tasks.
How can we go about delegating and letting go of all the elements that hinder us from leveraging this? I found the acronym IDEALS to be helpful:
I – Introduce the task and identify the person/people
D – Demonstrate clearly what needs to be done
E – Ensure understanding
A – Allocate authority, information and resources
L – Let go
S – Support and monitor
So how does one effectively delegate in a virtual or remote work environment? Below are some considerations I have found relevant:
Firstly, there needs to be clarity and clear communication. As leaders we would need to understand the process or task well ourselves, in order to communicate clearly. Secondly we need to choose an appropriate tool for communicating the various steps. The initial communication should be done face to face where possible or at least using a tool with video interaction. This can be followed up with written communication if required to describe the details of the task or process.
Finally, during the monitoring phase, there may need to be more regular interaction if the team is remote or virtual. I call it regular “virtual taps on the shoulder”. This is to check on progress and give encouragement and could be done on instant messaging or via phone calls.
It is worth remembering that there are going to be times when you can’t manage a project for whatever reason. What happens then? Does the project grind to a halt or go off the rails without your supervision? It certainly shouldn’t.
Delegating authority and managing remote teams isn’t always easy but I do hope that you will consider developing this art. You can start today by looking through your task list and identifying the tasks that could be delegated, thus freeing up your time to focus on other more strategic tasks. And most importantly, start to trust your team and colleagues, to deliver results for the delegated tasks. You can start by giving smaller tasks to build up the trust incrementally. In time as the team’s skills develop, you will be able to delegate more regularly and effectively, and trust will grow.
Let me end with a quote from John C Maxwell: “If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.”