Strong, effective leaders know how to artfully delegate. It's not a tactic to get work off your desk. It's a method to help employees grow and bring your team together, explains Deloitte's Kathleen Purtill.

It's an intriguing observation: how delegation can bring your team together. Purtill notes that for delegation to unite the team, employees need to understand the company's mission and where the team is headed. Work delegated and connected to these two basic necessities helps employees put the assignment in context. It also gives employees a "higher degree of confidence that they'll be successful."

Equally as influential on delegation is the awareness of purpose. Purtill observes that "purpose is what motivates people and helps make clear the importance of work." She goes on to explain in our interview the role purpose plays in grounding employees' perspectives on what's important. In essence, purpose is a major input into delegation. At the same time, it is fuel for employees who want to do superior work.

Acts of an Artful Delegator

With the above in mind, what does the artful delegator need to do? Here are top tips from the Deloitte leader:

  1. Learn what each employee's strengths are and how they like to receive information
  2. Adjust your leadership style to their skill level. If employees have little to no experience with the type of assignment, you'll likely need to be more hands on. Be more hands-off with an assignment given to someone who fully understands what is needed for success.
  3. Be aware of your own tendencies for control. Don't delegate and then micromanage the person. This undermines the intent of delegation and signals a lack of trust in the other person.
  4. Determine what your risk aversion levels are related to delegation. This will influence what you're willing to delegate.
  5. Be prepared that the person may fail with the assignment. Failure can "bring the group's perspective back to the bigger picture. It also helps create a mindset that we're in this together," explains Purtill.

Purtill shares this astute observation about delegation and risk: "Risk aversion may be higher in diverse teams because of the many variables and the need to spend more time adjusting your leadership style to each person." This observation teases out the importance of being strategic and thoughtful about delegating assignments to employees. This merely reinforces my opening thought: Delegation isn't a tactic to have employees do things you don't like or want to do. Do this if you want to annoy your team and build resentment towards you.

Nobody needs more work to do. But everyone wants to do work that matters. Delegation is a path to help people make a difference through their work.

Published on: Sep 15, 2016
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