3 Steps to Take Before you Delegate
As you transition from being an individual contributor, to being a leader, it is important to develop a system for delegating. Effective delegation is the key to you growing the talent around you, working fewer hours, and achieving organizational goals. By having a disciplined approach to empowering employees, you can create a learning organization that builds new skills and competencies through continuous improvement. There are three keys to effective delegations. First you need to have the right people working on the right things. Second, you need to clearly define the mission. Third, you need to establish parameters around what is acceptable and what is not. The time you spend ensuring that these three things are right before you launch a new initiative will reduce the need for you to micromanage every detail of the initiative because you will know that you have the right people, doing the right things, with a clear mission, and parameters around what needs to be accomplished.
Right people on the right things
Author Jim Collins in his book Good to Great highlights the importance of having the right people on the bus. This is essential to the success of any initiative. As a leader, your most important role is to surround yourself by talented people that can help you accomplish the company’s goals. The first step in this process is to clarify what you are looking to accomplish and define the skills and experience that you believe are necessary for success. Once you do this, you can begin to identify who can best support you in executing this initiative. For example, when I was a Zone Leader one of the goals that my zone had was to improve our novelty toy sales. We needed a person to work with key vendors to determine which items we should encourage Store Operators to bring into stores. In defining who could best lead this initiative, we wanted someone that had good knowledge of the customer, was willing to test out new items, was creative in merchandising, and was an influential communicator. We picked an Area Leader that had demonstrated passion and knowledge around novelty toys. She was a mom, that regularly watched YouTube with her kids which gave her valuable insights regarding consumer demand. She had a history of growing sales by bringing in new and trendy items. She produced outstanding results as the lead person on this initiative. She was energized by the opportunity to work directly with vendors to test out new items. As she identified high potential items, she leveraged her creativity to generate videos to help Store Operators understand why the items would sell well in their stores. By getting the right person to lead this initiative, we grew novelty toy sales 20% compared to the previous year. In addition to the sales growth, the Area Leader developed new skills, and gained more confidence in her abilities.
Define the Mission
Once you have selected the right people to work on an initiative, the next role of a leader is to define the mission. In defining the mission, it is best to start with your company’s strategy. It is important to show people how the work they are being asked to do, connects with the overall goals of the company. This can help the employees to understand why the work you are asking them to do is important. After making this connection, it is beneficial to communicate the impact that the work will have on others. Employees want their work to matter. You can help your employees feel fulfilled in their work by helping them to realize how the work they do benefits others.
Finally, take some time to help employees to understand how they will benefit from the work. In the example above, the Area Leader understood that growing novelty toy sales would help the company deliver its earnings target, help franchisees to improve their margin, provide customers a convenient place to purchase items they saw on YouTube and help her to develop merchandising, marketing, and communication skills. In defining the mission in this way, you can help employees find meaning in the work whether their motivation is supporting the company, addressing customers’ needs, their own self-interest, or a mixture of each.
The last step for giving your employees what they need to execute at a high level is defining the parameters for the initiative. Defining the parameters should include the who, what, and when for the work being performed. In defining the who, you want to be clear on who the work is for. This is important because it will influence the motivation, quality and standards related to the work. Being clear on who the target is, can bring greater focus to producing great work. You should also define who should be involved in executing the initiative. Is this something that is confidential and should only be worked on by a few people. Or is this an initiative where high level of collaboration is encouraged. Next you want to be clear on what resources are available to the team. Defining the budget, and the other resources at the team’s disposal can help ensure they leverage all that is at their disposal, while also ensuring they stay within the scope of the initiative. Be clear if there are any additional constraints that you want the team to be aware of. Finally, you want to map out your expectations around time. Being clear on start and end dates. It is also beneficial to pre-determine when check-ins will happen. This will allow the team to be prepared to provide you with quality updates on progress. These check ins will also give you the opportunity to provide feedback, and course correct the initiative if it seems like it is off track.
The more you can systematize the delegation process, the more consistency you will see in execution. One best practice that I encourage leaders to develop is a standard form for launching initiatives. By using the same form each time, a project is started, the team becomes grounded in asking the right questions prior to starting the initiative. This supports the organization learning and growing together. Over time, you will refine what information is needed to best position employees to successfully execute task without micro-management from the leader. This puts employees in a position to maximize their contribution to the organization, while freeing up the leader to focus on the things only they can do. This will support everyone in the organization contributing at their highest level.
Dorian Cunion is an Executive Business Coach with your Path Coaching and Consulting. He specializes in coaching service for managers, executives and small business owner.
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