Among his many lessons learned in life and business, the co-founder of Microsoft said something that can be a benefit to every busy leader: Learn to delegate better.
Gates admits delegating didn't come easy to him in the early days of Microsoft. He knew his obsession with programming wasn't sustainable if the company was to scale, so he had to consciously trust other people's ability to write software.
In one word, Gates had to learn to surrender. As Microsoft grew, so did his management responsibilities. That's when he discovered that he also had to learn to delegate his weaknesses--like managing the people side of the business--to other people's strengths.
Five ways to delegate with success
Do Gates's early struggles ring true for you? If your business is growing beyond your capacity, stop being a lone ranger. Having a great team in your corner is the first pillar to successful delegation for a leader. And two-way trust must be established for a leader to feel comfortable delegating and sharing responsibilities.
While some level of patience is required, delegating tasks effectively leads to employees feeling useful, empowered, and integral to the functioning of the organization. Here are five ways to do it with prolific results:
1. Give people the "why" behind your reason.
Team members who lack understanding about why a particular task matters and how they fit into it are less likely to care. Leaders who delegate well give team members context about what's at stake, what's involved, how the pieces fit into the big picture, and why doing it matters. By highlighting the importance and uniqueness of a particular task and painting it as an opportunity for partnership, leaders increase motivation and the odds of follow-through.
2. Inspire commitment with clear goals and expectations.
To get your people excited and committed, enroll them into what's possible by first defining the work and their role in making it happen. Then, communicate with great clarity all expectations for complete understanding. Finally, confirm that they understood and have them repeat back what they heard so nothing is lost in translation.
3. Delegate to the right person.
It's important to know to whom to delegate, as experience, knowledge, and skills matter to the delegated task. Are you familiar enough with each team member to know their knowledge, skills, and even preferred work style? Are you aware of the current workload of this individual being tasked? Does he have time to take on more work?
4. Focus on results.
Focus on what is accomplished, rather than getting stuck in the details of the work and how it should be performed according to your methods. Allow freedom of creativity and the strength and style of each individual contributor to shine instead of mandating your way of doing things. Letting your team member have some level of control of process and decision making will facilitate success, trust, and engagement in the work.
5. Provide recognition where deserved.
It is human nature to want to feel recognized by managers for good performance and hard work. We are wired to desire praise and recognition, and it's good for our brains. The chemical dopamine, a neurotransmitter produced in the brain, stimulates the parts of the brain that process rewards and create positive emotions like satisfaction and enjoyment. Recognizing an employee for good performance will also save your business. A lack of recognition is the third-most common reason employees choose to leave their employers, according to a survey of 1,154 people by Achievers.