As a manager of people, you grew into your role as a leader by being great at being an individual contributor. American culture teaches the importance of being independent. From an early age, teachers encourage you to do your work by yourself, and you were frequently graded and rewarded based on your work and contributions. As you continued your life journey, you learned how you performed as an individual determined whether you made a sports team, became the first chair in the band, were elected to student government, were admitted into college, or were hired by an organization. For this reason, you are wired to believe that the work you do as an individual will define your success in life.
As you progressed in your career, company cultures reinforced this belief through performance review processes, raises, bonuses, and promotions based on individual performance. Employees shifting from individual contributors to supervisors must turn their mindset from doers to leaders.
In every leader's journey, a point comes when they can no longer do everything themselves and must begin to enlist others to fulfill the scope of the work. At that point, a leader's success is based on their ability to attract, retain, and develop talent. Successful leaders surround themselves with great people and effectively bring out the best in the people they work with. There is no better way to build talent than to take the time to train people, set clear expectations for them, and give them room to learn and grow.
Focus on doing tasks only you can do.
As the leader, your goal should only do the work that only you can do. The reason for this is partially economic. As the leader, you likely are the highest-paid individual within your team. When you complete a task that someone else could complete, you raise the cost associated with the completion of that task. You also eliminate the opportunity for your employee to feel a sense of accomplishment from executing a task that aligns with their skill sets. When you delegate, you provide a learning experience for employees that can help them grow in competence and confidence. Over time this growth helps to produce greater competency within your employees. As employees' confidence and competence grow, they can take on increasingly complex challenges, which creates new potential for the organization.
Leverage the strengths of others.
Tapping into the energy, knowledge, and strengths of others is another excellent reason to delegate. We all have different strengths, experiences, and perspectives, which influence the ideas we have and the outcomes we produce. You can leverage their strengths by collaborating with others while still influencing outcomes. The key here is providing a vision of what you are asking someone else to do and then giving them room to do it. When delegating, you want to ensure that the person you select to work on the task has the information and capabilities necessary to execute to your expectation. You also want to be clear about the parameters of the assignment. The better you communicate your expectations upfront, the more likely you will be pleased with the outcome.
Create room to be more strategic.
One benefit of delegating is that it creates room for you to be more strategic as a leader. A leader's role is to ensure the execution of day-to-day activities, develop talent, and plan for the future. As the leader, you must be able to oscillate between zooming in on minute details and zooming out to see the big picture. The act of delegating reduces the time you must spend on minute details, freeing you up to focus more holistically on the entire business. Holistic focus is critical because no single project defines the long-term success of an organization. You build success by delivering a series of positive strategic accomplishments. When leaders can accept imperfect progress, they will find that their organizations can do more over time. The pursuit of perfection often results in excessive energy and resources being allocated past the point of diminishing returns. Leaders make better decisions around what the minimum acceptable level of execution should be when they can put the work in perspective of the overall company's goals. This type of strategic thinking enables organizations to allocate the appropriate amount of time and resources to projects.
Scale your impact
When you move into a leadership role, the expectation is for you to replicate the success you were able to deliver as an individual contributor across multiple people. Developing those you work with is the only sustainable way to do this. Leaders that try to be superhuman by attempting to execute their strategic roles, in addition to the tactical work of their organization, risk burnout and stagnating the growth of their teams. People learn best by doing, and failure is the best teacher. Leaders willing to delegate work to others create cultures of learning and development. In employee satisfaction surveys, lack of development and career advancement opportunities are the two most cited reasons people leave organizations. When you delegate effectively, you directly address these concerns by giving employees increased opportunities to develop, putting them in a better position for career advancement. This will help you be a talent magnet to people both inside and outside of your organization. People will want to work with you because they know you are a leader who helps people develop.
The skills and abilities that helped you to grow into a leadership position are not the ones that will allow you to excel as a leader. Individual contributors must demonstrate technical excellence. They must pursue perfection in everything they do because they are personally accountable for the work they produce. Leaders maintain personal accountability but have added responsibility for the work completed by others. As a leader, it is vital to shift from micromanaging every detail of how work is completed to creating an environment where employees are inspired to do great work, given the room to learn and grow, empowered to take action, and coached for continuous improvement. When leaders can develop delegation skills, they scale their influence and position their organizations for faster and better growth. Employees' ability to reach their full potential is directly linked to your willingness to give them tasks to complete and room to fail, succeed, learn, and grow. As you stretch your employees' capabilities through delegation, you also build your ability to communicate clearly, exercise judgment, and develop others. This, in turn, will help you grow into the leader you are meant to be.
Dorian Cunion is an Executive Business Coach with your Path Coaching and Consulting. He specializes in coaching services for managers, executives, and small business owners.
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