How Do Leaders Delegate Successfully, and How You Can Too

By Nan Nan Liu-Maffetone | Strong Female Leaders | Reading Time: Approx. 5 minutes

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Leadership expert, John C. Maxwell, said it best:
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.
In 2015, a Gallup Study of 143 CEOs on the Inc. 500 list proved that organizations led by leaders who effectively delegate authority grow more rapidly, make more revenue, and generate more opportunities. While mounting evidence show that delegating decision-making responsibilities increases an organization’s productivity, morale and overall wellness, many leaders consciously choose to not do it. They often struggle with the following:
  • Differentiating between what kinds of responsibilities they can delegate that would be helpful to them and to their team(s).
  • Finding ways to delegate responsibilities and not merely passing on tasks.
  • Identifying which responsibilities serve as learning opportunities for others.
  • These leaders may not have had role models to show them how to delegate effectively.  They may also perceive letting go of such decision-making responsibilities as a risk for their reputation. Ultimately, instead of an essential skill, they perceive delegating as a sign of weakness.

    What our article will do for you today is to give you a new perspective, and change your mind about delegating. We also want to offer ways to promote successful delegation, so that you can achieve bigger and better things, instill trust and increase knowledge base within your teams, and allow yourself and your business to grow.

    How do leaders delegate successfully, and how you can too.
    1. Change your mindset.
    Before you can delegate successfully and effectively, you must remove your own resistance. This may be the hardest step to take, so please allow time to master it. It helps if you place extra awareness on it, and make it a daily goal to delegate at least one decision to someone else. Start small, but do take action.

    At first, it will feel unnatural, especially if you have a habit of tackling it all yourself. Realize that habits take time to form. Give it a couple of weeks, then revisit how you feel and notice how much progress you’ve made.
    2. Choose the right person to delegate to.
    The right person for the responsibility may not be obvious. If you choose incorrectly, you may cause frustration, mistrust, or even severance of relationships.

    Recognize that it’s not always about who has the skills to do the work. It’s also about choosing someone who needs the experience, can handle the stress, has the capacity, has the interest, and needs the challenge.

    Choosing the right team member requires an all-encompassing review. If you do it right, not only have you found the organization’s next generation of leaders, but perhaps even your own successor.
    3. Convey responsibilities and desired results clearly and concisely.
    When people feel clear about their responsibilities, the amount of autonomy they possess, and what their expectations are, they will shine like diamonds.

    Today’s workforce encompasses of knowledge professionals who are educated, opinionated, connected, and self-motivated. They prefer autonomy over task, technique and time, and often supersede senior leaders in education, capacity and speed.

    Successful delegators understand this, and know how to define and convey responsibilities, autonomy and expectations to team members. They state desired results in fine detail, including how the task contributes to the bigger picture (the “why”), the exact output and outcome, and how success is measured.

    The most successful, and the smartest, delegators not only make the above points with the clearest conveyance, but also treat it as a top priority during initial discussions and throughout the execution.

    4. Ensure that the team has the right resources.
    Great delegators put their team members first, starting with giving them the right resources. Whether it’s training, removing road blocks, adding supplies, give them more time, finding a quite space, or providing financial support, they allow team members to solely focus on making progress, and absorb the rest of the responsibilities, like great leaders should.
    5. Establish small milestones and rhythmical intermittent check ins.
    Establishing milestones and check in’s for feedback allows team members the time and space to freely express their feelings.

    Imagine that each team member is a balloon. With each work day, stress and tension would inject each balloon like air. When the air pressure increases to a certain volume, the balloon pops.

    By establishing small, intermittent check in’s ahead of time, Great leaders avoid the big “pop” by giving team members a space and time to alleviate tension, whether they actually experience it or not.

    Great leaders neither micromanage nor under-lead; They show true care.
    6. Encourage creativity and foster new ideas.
    When teams become stale in their ways, they lose their soul. Successful delegators welcome fresh, creative ideas even if the ideas interfere with day-to-day operations or their own agendas.

    It’s important for leaders to at least be open to suggestions and not reject ideas right away. Many knowledge professionals hold enough personal power and emotional quotient to understand that new ideas risk rejection. When they bring their ideas to light, they have already thought through prudently how to approach the “sales”. They also understand what it implies when leaders refuse their ideas without consideration: that the culture might be unsuitable to withstand evolving climates and fierce competition.
    7. Create a motivating environment that fosters success and embraces failures.
    Successful delegators are acutely aware of the best times to cheer, step in, step aside, coach, adjust expectations, offer emotional assistance, and celebrate wins. They also embrace risks and mistakes, and leverage them as opportunities to learn.

    They know that they are the glue that holds teams together. They are confident about their own significance, no matter how much they delegate important decisions to others. If they lose their own personal power, their teams will fall apart.
    Parting Thoughts.
    Effective delegation enables leaders to maximize resources, focus on priorities, develop teams and talents, and foster a culture of trust and respect.

    If you have a great amount of influence in your organization, consider promoting effective delegation and embed it as a necessary skill that not only contributes to your team members' career advancement, but also their personal growth.

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