By Jessica Hicks, Editorial Fellow at Thrive Global
Knowing how to delegate is essential to successful leadership, but it’s a skill that can be challenging. Some managers don’t like to hand over responsibility, while others might be nervous about appearing disengaged — but what these leaders don’t realize is that delegating can provide growth opportunities for their colleagues, and reduce stress for the entire team.
Plus, managers need additional support. A recent Gallup report found that managing various types of employees and stakeholders can escalate stress for managers, who “need protected time to think, do their own work, and respond to requests.”
If you’re a manager who’s unsure how to hand over a task, check out these tips to make the process more thoughtful and effective:
Invest in your relationship
Delegating is meant to reduce your stress, but it can have the opposite effect if you’re apprehensive about the person you’re delegating to. “Delegation without trust is a terrible thing. A leader who delegates but then checks up every five minutes to see if it’s being done — and being done ‘right’ — causes stress for everyone,” Michele Woodward, an author and executive coach, tells Thrive. To develop a stronger dynamic with your colleague, and ultimately empower them to own the task at hand, Woodward suggests adopting a mentor-mentee approach to delegation. Recognize that you are teaching just as much as passing the torch, and remember to do so with kindness. To build that connection with your colleague, turn what would usually be a digital exchange into a face-to-face conversation. This will help you build a stronger rapport and a greater sense of trust.
Set clear expectations
Expecting a person to meet your standards without giving them adequate support is like hoping a plant will thrive without ever watering it. “Name your expectations, timelines, and don’t expect them to read your mind,” DeAnne Aussem, the managing director of learning and development at PwC, tells Thrive. “After that, get out of the way and let them deliver. Sure, you can check-in for accountability and course-correction, but anything more is probably micromanaging.” Let your colleague know what is expected of them from the start. Once you’re sure they understand, ask them if there’s any way you can be supportive while they complete the task. If they say they’re all set, trust them to do their job.
Make it feedback-centric
For delegation to be successful, it needs to be centered around compassionately delivered feedback. “If you want to make those around you better, you have to invest your time and really focus on the quality of the feedback you give. That degree of thoughtfulness, care, and precision is what makes delegation work,” Aussem says. To make sure your colleague is getting the input they need, Woodward suggests setting up check-ins to see how things are going and to offer advice if you see fit. When you go into these meetings, be sure to listen just as much as you speak. Remember: Micromanagement can be delegation’s pitfall.
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