Staying in Control When You Delegate

August 12, 2012 § 2 Comments

Understandably, we often feel anxious when delegating a critical task.  After all, as managers, we are ultimately held responsible. But delegating is something you can’t avoid.  Not only can we not do everything, if we avoid delegating key tasks that would grow and develop our people, then they could – and likely will –  end up hiring themselves another manager who’s willing to take more risks with them.

Here are three tips to help with delegating (especially if your the type to over-control):

  • Be honest and up front about your anxieties.  Explain that you are especially concerned about delegating this task and ask for your direct report’s help by being patient with the reporting and check-in schedule you set up.  Tell her you’re willing to reconsider the schedule as the project progresses.  Be explicit, and your direct report will less likely interpret your check-ins as negative feedback.  Send the message that when the work goes well your anxieties will abate – and the best way to work with you is to keep you informed.
  • Be positive in your progress check-ins. Share what you appreciate in what he’s accomplishing so far, and the impact or consequences you believe it will have on the project results.  If you have a suggestion on how to do something differently (but it doesn’t HAVE to be done that way), then communicate it as suggestion and underscore that your direct report has the choice to use your idea or not.   T.H. White was right when he said:   “The hardest thing in the world is to know how to do a thing and to watch someone else do it wrong, without comment.”  Let your direct report learn from mistakes he can afford to make, and you demonstrate trust.  He will love you for it.
  • Be available.  Demonstrate your support and interest.  Don’t disappear.  Ironically, a common complaint I hear is how managers delegate a task, then are not there for support when needed.  This is especially true when managers have a  high performing, non co-located direct report. Your “A” players need recognition, attention, support and want to get better just like the rest of us. Be mindful of these achievers.  If you keep them in the dark, you won’t know when they’re thinking of leaving, until it’s too late.

Keeping in mind your direct report’s abilities, career aspirations, development needs, limitations – as well as your own – can help you develop your own delegating abilities.

Good luck.

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