To be a good leader and get promoted, you must learn this skill
Stop doing and start delegating.
On Tuesday, Virgin CEO Richard Branson had some savvy advice for Tesla and Space X CEO Elon Musk: do less, delegate more.”I think he maybe needs to learn the art of delegation,” Branson told CNBC’s Nancy Hungerford. “He’s got to find time for himself, he’s got to find time for his health and for his family. He’s a wonderfully creative person but he shouldn’t be getting very little sleep. He should find a fantastic team of people around him.”
Furthermore, Branson credits his “enjoyable life and a long life” to having “wonderful people” manage his companies and getting involved only when he had to. This comes as Musk has admitted to 120 hour weeks, staying in his factories for multiple days at a time, and not having taken a vacation since 2001, when he got malaria.
Experts say delegation is one of the most important lessons those hoping to move up the career ladder have to learn. “As your responsibilities become more complex, the difference between an effective leader and a super-sized individual contributor with a leader’s title is painfully evident,” writes Dr. Jesse Sostrin, a director in PwC’s Leadership Coaching Center of Excellence and author of The Manager’s Dilemma, in the Harvard Business Review. “In the short term you may have the stamina to get up earlier, stay later, and out-work the demands you face. But the inverse equation of shrinking resources and increasing demands will eventually catch up to you, and at that point how you involve others sets the ceiling of your leadership impact..”
What’s more, when you delegate, you get “a diversity of thought that comes into your projects, which creates a better product,” says Tim Toterhi, an executive coach and founder of Plotline Leadership and the author of “The HR Guide to Getting and Crushing Your Dream Job.” And, delegating shows employees that you trust them and have faith in their ability to complete tasks, says Roy Cohen, a career coach and author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide.”
So how can you learn to delegate effectively? Career experts weigh in.
Know what tasks to delegate. A simple way to know what you should delegate: Follow the six Ts, which means delegating tasks that are tiny, tedious, time-consuming, teachable, time-sensitive, and that you’re terrible at, writes Jenny Blake, a career and business strategist who teaches a course called Delegation Ninja: Turn Frantic into Freedom, in the Harvard Business Review. You can read details about exactly what each T entails here. Don’t delegate confidential tasks, tasks that your boss asked you to do personally, or praise (as the team leader, you should take the time to praise staff yourself.)
Delegate whole projects or intact sections of projects, says Toterhi. “This gives the person a feeling of ownership,” he explains — which in turn creates accountability and pride at a successful outcome.
Show employees how their project contributes to the whole, says Toterhi. This allows them to see why the project you delegated to them matters to the team and the organization as a whole, he explains.
Identify who to delegate certain tasks to. Look at both what team members are good at doing and what they enjoy doing to figure out who to give tasks to, says Wendi M. Weiner, a career and branding expert. “This is the recipe for cultivating talent,” she says — adding that even if someone is good at something, if they don’t enjoy doing it and you keep having them do it, they’re more likely to leave the organization. And if someone enjoys something but doesn’t quite have the skills to do it yet (but shows promise), it may be worth training them to do it or having another team member do that, she adds.
Resist the urge to micromanage, says Cohen — as this implies to your staff that you don’t trust them. Instead, ask them to check in with you at regular intervals to give you status updates on the project.
Allow for mistakes. “Let folks fail safely,” says Toterhi. “You will let them trip, but not fall on their face.” Mistakes are often learning experiences so it’s important to make them, but people don’t want to feel that they could make a mistake so large it might hurt their reputation or career.
Fight the “what if I don’t get credit for it” urge. As the manager overseeing a project, you likely get credit for the project and how well your employees do, so there’s typically no need to hoard every aspect of a project for yourself. In fact, you should often allow your employee to present the results of the project, he adds. That “sets you up to be seen at the company as a talent developer,” says Toterhi. “If you are seen doing that people will line up to work for you.”
Be approachable. You want your employees to feel comfortable coming to you if issues arise, says Cohen. That means you must give facetime to all of your employees and let them know that you want them to come to you.
Say thank you, says Erica Keswin, workplace strategist and author of the new book “Bring Your Human to Work.” “If you want people to help you with your work, a little bit of gratitude goes a long way,” she adds.
Remember that you’re delegating for your own good. As Cohen puts it: “When you are seen as a person who is doing everything, you begin to erode your brand as a leader.”
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