Many of my coaching clients wrestle with delegation. Their jobs are getting bigger and as they become more senior, delegation is imperative or their workloads become unsustainable.

I view delegating as an investment in the other person’s development, and as my first payment into the longer term reward of having less on my plate. When I am really busy I have to keep in mind that while delegating seems like more work (and often is up front) there is a win-win payoff in the longer term. When I step back to look at the bigger picture and priorities, I am reminded that developing people is a high priority. That said, on a day when I am really busy, it is tough to take the time to delegate. Looking at delegation as an investment helps me make the time.

In my first management role, I learned that most of the tasks I needed to delegate could be divided into two categories:

  • Things that must be done a certain way – e.g., because of the law, organization policy,
    or a client’s instructions
  • Things that can be done in a number of different ways

In my experience, a few things fall into that first category and must be clearly explained to ensure the success of the person to whom I am delegating. There are many more things that I do a certain way but could be done other ways. For tasks in this second category, I can set up my team member for success by sharing my suggestions and advice, but not requiring she take a certain approach. This distinction allows the person to take ownership in a way she can’t when I tell her exactly how to do a task.

Consider if your delegation would improve by thinking through how you would sort what must be done in a certain way versus what can be done in a number of ways for the task you are delegating.  It is a bit like sorting laundry into whites and colors. Next, share the two lists with the people you are helping to develop.


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