A Simple Chart To Help Free The Leader Within You
A method of delegating that will make you more valuable.
Something had to change.
Even if James didn’t truly believe it, it was what he was being told by his boss, his boss’s boss, and the department’s HR Director. In no uncertain terms.
He simply had to learn to let go and trust his team to do the work they were being paid to do, so that he could perform the work he was being paid to do. Half of his direct reports were already seeking new jobs. The other half weren’t far behind.
You know people like James. Maybe you work with a James, or for a James. Worse yet, maybe you are a James.
Truth is, there’s some James in all of us. Even the great leaders want to hang on to the work they know, the work that got them promoted, rather than venturing into the work that they haven’t yet mastered.
Great leaders overcome this and learn to trust their teams. Great leaders know that results are what matter, even if the methods their direct reports use to achieve those results aren’t exactly what the leader would have prescribed. Great leaders have figured out how to quiet their Inner James.
You can figure it out too.
Delegation is often one part art, one part science, and many parts venturing into the unknown. The figure below shows a simple tool that will help remove some of that mystery, and can make the difficult decisions — To whom should I delegate what? — a bit easier .
Start with a task or project in mind, and a person you’re considering delegating it to. Using the Delegation Matrix above, determine the approach that’s best suited for the situation.
The person you’re considering is both capable of performing the task / project, and quite willing to take it on. Your action here is simple — delegate! There is absolutely no reason to hang onto this project yourself. In fact, doing so would be irresponsible for at least two reasons. First, a big part of your job as a leader is to develop the people you’re leading. What better way to develop them than by giving them some of your work? Second, chances are (though not always true) that the people you’re delegating to make less money than you do. If they’re capable of performing the task and willing to do so, spending more of the company’s money in order to do it yourself is financially irresponsible. This is as much of a no-brainer as there is in management — in quadrant A, delegate and make way for the accolades about your leadership prowess to flow in.
Things get trickier here. The person under consideration is perfectly willing to take on the task, but doesn’t seem quite capable yet. From what you’ve seen of her performance, your judgment is that she has the potential to complete this bit of work at a high level. Try giving her the teaching / guidance / coaching & mentoring she needs to get over the hump. You’ll want to check in frequently to make sure she’s on the right track, but chances are she will be. It’s human nature to underestimate others’ capability to perform work that you’re excellent at, especially when they report to you. Delegating in quadrant B is often much less risky than it seems, and the excuse “but it’ll be much quicker if I just do it myself” is often nothing more than an excuse to justify hanging on to work that you know. Besides, the next time a similar task or project comes up, you’ll have a ready delegate who won’t even need to be trained.
The decision here is just as easy as it was in quadrant A. Move on. The person doesn’t seem capable, and isn’t even willing to take on the task / project. You get a less-than-lukewarm response when you ask him about it. Don’t write him off completely, as things could be different with future opportunities, but delegating here would be irresponsible to both the company and the employee. At best, he’ll complete the task at a substandard level of quality. At worst, you’ll be judged as setting him up to fail.
This is where you take delegation to the next level, by delegating leadership itself! You have someone capable of performing the task, but for whatever reason she isn’t terribly willing to take it on. Perhaps she’s done it too many times before. Perhaps she’s already overburdened. Perhaps the challenge of it has worn off. Whatever the reason, she’s a perfect candidate to train someone else. She’ll also likely be motivated by this opportunity to teach — it’s a leadership opportunity, and she’ll be giving you another future delegation option for a task she isn’t thrilled about. Find someone in quadrant B to pair her up with, and now you’re truly developing future leaders.
Delegation doesn’t need to be a mystery, and it shouldn’t feel like throwing darts at a dartboard. By being more conscious about your delegation decisions, you can free yourself up to tackle the most valuable work — the work that only you can do — that your firm is paying you to do. And you’ll be developing future leaders along the way. Not a bad combination.
There’s plenty of guidance and advice out there for senior leaders and executives. What about the rest of us?
New writers and contributions are welcome! Email me at email@example.com.