Delegation is a challenge for leaders at all levels. Trusting your employees and being able to entrust them with tasks and projects is essential to the growth of any leader or entrepreneur. So why do so many people struggle to let go of the day-to-day details and create space for their best work? Turns out it’s a pretty complex set of reasons.
Emily Morgan, founder of Delegate Solutions and author of the recent Let it go! How to (finally) master delegation and freedom to scale in your organization, shared his leadership lessons on delegation. She has spent 15 years helping thousands of busy entrepreneurs master delegation and finally reclaim their time. Here are some key takeaways for those struggling to master these vital management and leadership skills.
Why Leaders Often Have Trouble Delegating
Becoming a better delegator first requires a change of mindset. Entrepreneurs, because of their experience in building something from scratch, often feel a sense of guilt when it comes to delegating, as if they haven’t yet earned a “release” from that responsibility, says Morgan. “For me, delegation means freedom and freedom over your time,” she says. “Self-limiting beliefs that make us feel guilty or that others can’t do things as well as we can continue to feed and hold ourselves back.”
And while we can often be mistaken in saying that it is easier to do a task on our own, which is often true, this reflection makes us lose sight of the key element that delegation is supposed to give us back: time. Time is up, Morgan reminds us. If we say yes and continue to do all the work ourselves, we’re missing out on the most impactful things we could do as leaders.
Keep your eyes on the prize
Every business needs a visionary to guide from the top. So even if leaders really like doing the work they should be delegating, if they are comfortable being the person who “gets things done”, spending their time doing these small tasks leaves a void to where a visionary should guide others in the organization.
“These day-to-day tasks can be hard to let go of because our self-esteem is so intertwined with them. We’re really good at these things, but in most cases, a lot of other people are too,” Morgan says. you do an activity over and over again, it’s probably something someone else can and should do for you.”
Know what to drop
The first step in knowing what to delegate is determining where you want to spend your time. Once these elements are identified, it becomes clear what other projects and tasks take up time during the day without contributing to these essential elements.
This also directly contributes to overcoming the mindset obstacle mentioned above. For many, the question becomes “If I don’t do this job, what a m what am I going to do? This question can be scary for many leaders – the possibility that they are not as good at strategic direction and visionary responsibilities can keep them in the weeds and sticking to the things they know, rather than to what they should focus on.
“As key leaders of our companies, our ideas are what our contributions are,” Morgan points out. Anything that doesn’t push you to develop more ideas should be delegated.
What Makes a Successful Delegation
Effective delegation, as Morgan says, is not just about assigning tasks. If you don’t follow a thoughtful and systematic process, your plate will fill up again very quickly. By clarifying where we as leaders can make our most impactful contributions, we know What must be delegated, it is now a question of developing a system to delegate effectively. Fortunately, Morgan has a five-step process to accelerate leaders through this process; you will notice that we are already a few steps away:
1. Focus on what your contribution needs to be (and therefore what can be taken off your shoulders)
2. Think about how you spend your time and what you can learn from these patterns
3. Describe a delegation strategy linked to objectives and priorities; what will be delegated, to whom and by what method
4. Transfer projects using the criteria developed in step 3
5. Gather feedback from the parties involved, having a candid and healthy conversation about what worked, what didn’t work, and what can be learned for next time
Common Delegation Mistakes
Of course, there are many common pitfalls leaders will find themselves in when it comes to delegation. Morgan shared some mistakes she often sees others make when delegating.
“Delegation at the wheel” is a common mistake – delegating without being clear about what is expected or what success would look like when the employee is in control of a project can cause significant problems.
“We live in ideation and our team lives in execution,” she explains. “Friction can develop in teams where leaders aren’t disciplined in how they share ideas or what their expectations are.” And it can also inadvertently lead to the “only I can do it right” mentality that keeps many leaders from delegating properly. Simply telling employees to do something without setting parameters for success will often lead to the job being done less satisfactorily and reinforce the idea that the leader had to do everything themselves, when in reality , he simply should have done a better job in the handing part of the delegation.
Finally, Morgan sees far too many leaders who don’t have weekly meetings or regular check-ins with their teams to track the progress of delegated projects and build accountability. She uses such meetings with her clients all the time, to great effect. “Each week we talk about what’s coming up, what happened last week, and think about the overall delegation strategy to make sure we’re actually getting the things we wanted done.”
These meetings are also a great place to receive the feedback mentioned in Step 5 of the delegation process. With this idea, leaders can iterate and strengthen their delegation skills for the future.
As with any skill, mastering delegation takes practice. When things don’t go your way, don’t give up – learn from it and just keep trying. Once you can truly let go and others support you, then you will be free to do your highest and best work, which will allow you to evolve your leadership, your team and your organization.