Delegation is one of the hardest skills for any leader to learn. Past experiences and internal blocks make it really difficult for some leaders to delegate tasks and projects to their team members...which ultimately causes their businesses to stall or have slower growth patterns. My company recently surveyed a group of our business coaching clients about why in their past they struggled with letting go and handing off responsibility to their teams. Here are some of the responses we got:
"People don't do it the way I would."
"It's just easier to do it myself."
"They never do it exactly like I wanted it done."
"It took me longer to fix things after they did it incorrectly."
"It takes too long."
"They won't do it as well as I can."
A bit of introspection.
I am sure many of you can relate to these statements. We have all had delegation go bad: A project never got completed, or it was done all wrong. Or they missed some of the key deliverables in the project and left you with a mess to clean up. And if it happens enough times, even the most experienced leader will start to shy away from trying to delegate high-level tasks, for fear of having to pick up the pieces after the fact.
So, what is a leader to do? The first thing is to have a bit of introspection. Think about a time that you delegated a task, and it went wrong. While at the time it might have been easier to lay blame on the employee that failed to deliver on the project, I want you to think about how you could personally own the results of that delegation. What could you have done differently? What could you have given or said to that employee to help them be more successful at the task at hand? What skills do you need to work on to make delegation more successful in the future?
How to do it better.
Being in control is very appealing to a lot of business owners. But the cost of doing it all yourself is far too great. It limits your growth and could cause you to lose valuable employees over time. So, if you find yourself lacking delegation skills, the best thing you can do for yourself and your business is get clear on how to do it better, and then practice.
Step 1. Have a clear idea of what exactly you need done. The more clear and concise you can be on this step, the higher the likelihood that your project will be completed to your specifications.
Step 2. Know who to ask and what you can realistically expect from them. Everyone on your team has certain competencies. Just like you wouldn't ask your accountant to create a website for you, you can't expect team members who lack the skills necessary to complete a task to do a good job without proper training and development. So knowing who will be able to execute a task well is vitally important.
Step 3. Have a clean handoff. Once you have identified the what and the who, it's time to focus on the how. Be clear on when the project needs to be completed, as well as the standards you require. And lastly, don't forget to be clear on how that team member will close the loop with you once the project is complete.
Delegation takes practice, and you won't get it perfect right out of the gate. So keep trying. Evaluate yourself after every delegation, and try to identify things that you could do differently the next time around. Don't give up--practice makes perfect!