To Be a Great Leader, Learn to Delegate
One of the greatest challenges for many new managers lies in a self-transformation from task master to leader. This transition involves the ability to effectively delegate responsibilities to other team members and empower them to succeed. Harvard Business Review Contributor Jesse Sostrin discusses this common management dilemma and offers strategies to help streamline your workflow, build employee competency, and boost your leadership impact.
While your coworkers may admire your willingness to roll up your sleeves and get the job done, you’ll inevitably overextend yourself and alienate team members from valuable work experience when holding onto tasks that should be delegated. Your goal as an effective manager is to inspire your collaborators to contribute their best work and become your greatest allies.
To accomplish this mission, Sostrin suggests new managers must first embrace a seemingly paradoxical leadership principle: become more essential by being less involved. This means influencing others’ actions and offering your valuable perspective rather than micromanaging them every step of the way.
Sostrin details four essential strategies for managers at all levels to effectively delegate:
Share Your Reasons | When people understand why something matters, how if fits into the big picture, and what’s unique about the opportunity, then the task becomes a greater priority and follow-through is more likely. Instead of solely giving the business justification, explain why this task matters to you and inspire others to take a similar personal investment in the outcome.
Inspire Commitment | Your collaborators get excited about the possibilities when they understand their roles in making it happen. Once you’ve defined the project, clarified contributors’ roles, and ensured tasks align with their capacities, be sure to communicate your expectations. Back up email communications with face-to-face or voice-to-voice confirmations to ensure their understanding and commitment to deadlines and goals.
Engage Appropriately | Maintain your engagement at sufficient levels to be sure the project stays on track and employees are accountable to deadlines, but don’t overstep here. Find the right balance to avoid micromanaging, yet take advantage of opportunities to offer supportive comments or feedback along the way. If you’re uncertain of your coworkers’ comfort zone with check-ins, just ask. This approach shows you respect their boundaries and gives them autonomy in how the delegated work best fits into their personal work processes.
Be Selective | Know when to say yes, when to delegate to others, and when to say no. Carefully assess every project that comes your way. In some cases, you’re simply the best person for the job. In other cases, when the work doesn’t align with your role as a manager, your best move is to delegate to qualified team members and serve as their mentor, not as the muscle doing the heavy lifting. Sometimes it’s necessary to just say no to a new assignment, but be prepared to make a strong business case for why your team’s effort and attention will have a greater impact elsewhere.