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Loosen Your Grip to Gain More Power

Delegate even when it hurts

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

We talk to lots of CEOs, and we like to ask, “How do you get the most from your people?” They often reply, “I just leave them alone and let them do their work.”

The trick is to know what constitutes “their” work vs. “your” work. If you take on too much yourself, you’ll hog too many responsibilities and leave your employees yearning to learn more.

A controlling manager may find it hard to delegate. That’s especially true if you can do something faster and better yourself— and you lack the time or patience to train someone else. But that approach almost guarantees you won’t run an efficient unit or win promotions.

Take these steps to turn over key duties to your staff:

Delegate in steps. Break a process up into well-defined stages. Then delegate by assigning individuals to master one step at a time.

Example: You insist on responding to every customer complaint. That involves a three-step process: gathering facts, preparing a response and making customer contact. You decide to let your employees prove that they can handle each stage. Within a few months, after you’re convinced they can investigate the facts and plan a sensible response, you delegate the final step of having them call customers.

Play “teach me.” You may worry that even if your employees complete a task, they may not work as smartly as you would. Maybe you’re right. But that’s no reason to deny them the opportunity. To allay your concern, add this step before you delegate a job: Ask your staff to train you how to do it. Say, “Now that you’re trained and ready to do this, let’s pretend you’re teaching me. Explain to me what to do.”

Sure, they may be nervous. But by having them teach you what they’re about to do, you can gauge their familiarity with the work and their confidence in getting it done right. Better yet, you’ll be more apt to delegate with peace of mind if you’re convinced they know what they are doing.

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