Delegate like a Boss (that people actually want to work for)
When I started Rhabit Alexander and I both did everything, finance, product, sales, marketing, support, etc. Everything. Sometimes we collaborated on things and sometimes we owned things, but in general each of us touches just about everything in the company at least a little bit.
Over time as we grew and matured, naturally the need arises to let go of things, and I think one of the things I’ve worked to master over the years is how I delegate work to my teammates. I wanted to share those thoughts here in order to help leaders at any level build more trust with their teams. I want to help you create an environment where you, as the leader, can meet the reasonable needs of transparency around work products, while benefiting from the sweet release of letting go of work and allowing others to run with things.
The value of letting go
There’s of course variability in every leader’s personality, some folks are big into control, others cede it very easily, some have high default trust, others low, and this usually dictates much of how a leader will sort behave in the default state of leading a team. The important thing to really understand is no matter the personality of the leader, the fact that they have a set amount of bandwidth and ability to organize information is a fact.
Everyone has a limit, and no one performs well once you’re over that limit. In any organization, the amount of work to be done overtime, assuming the business model is sufficiently efficient, should perpetually increase. The work itself is either additive (new processes you didn’t have to do before but have to do now) or increasingly complex (new regulations you must adhere to or rules or policies). The amount of work you as an individual can grow too in some cases as technology evolves, but your threshold will eventually be exceeded and delegation will be a necessity for the maintaining of your own performance, and that is the key idea I always want leaders to take away.
You can be better as a professional in your career by doing less than there is available to do. If you can really buy into the practical reality of this, it makes it more palpable for even the most neurotic, control oriented managers to finally let go of tasks and embrace delegation.
Effective delegation behaviors
So you’ve crossed over the threshold of that mental model and now you’re actually ready to let go of things and delegate. How do you do this the right way? The biggest favor you can do for yourself is really look at some key behaviors around delegation.
These are a couple examples of things we measure with Rhabit that help drive high performance leaders:
- Give people precise deadlines for when you expect work to be completed or work to be ready for review. “Sometime next week “ is better than “when you get a chance”, “by end of day next Thursday” is even better. The reason behind doing this is it helps the person you’re delegating to the ability to organize themselves and prioritize properly. It’s a simple starting point.
- Check-in on how things are going at a high level without managing the details. When you check in on someone’s progress, let them drive the response. Your goal should just be to understand two things: Are they going to be able to deliver the work product by the deadline you’ve given them and do they need help, that’s it. You don’t need to catch them mid-stream of working on something and give feedback unless they ask for it explicitly.
- Speaking of help, if they want help, provide it. People get stuck on things sometimes and struggle with tasks, especially newer employees or employees taking on something for a the first time. Offer to help if they want it, ask them if they need help, tell them explicitly that it’s OK to ask for help and tell them it’s your job to make sure they have what they need to be successful, and sometimes that can be as simple as helping out. Even if they don’t utilize your assistance, knowing they’re supported and have someone who’s willing to help them is great for morale in general and the critical report between you and your employees.
- Give them authority over the details. You can make sure they have the proper guide rails - processes, policies, standards. You should be setting the general boundaries that are critical but leave as much of the “how’s” up to them. Your focus is really contextualizing the “why” as much as possible. Why the work you’ve given matters, why you need it by when you need it, the “whys” are always important and part of good delegation.
If you hit these big core behaviors and your teammates observe you doing these things: setting clear deadlines, giving sufficient authority, offering to help, and checking in, you’ll set the culture of how people exchange work with one another and help your team build great habits they’ll utilize in the future to lead others, setting a good foundational culture for years to come for your organization.
Interested in some awesome tools for assessing you or your company's leaders on their ability to delegate work? Want to build more high performance leaders? Maybe you’d like to see how we fold great behaviors like this into a performance management process that drives a high performance work environment that people find fulfilling.
If so, we'd love to talk to you about what we do at Rhabit and maybe even show you a demo of some of the tools we’ve built to help companies build amazing leaders and work cultures.
Till next time,
Kevin and the Rhabit Team