How Can I Learn to Delegate Better?

One of the biggest obstacles to growing a business is actually the leader of that business. Knowing when to step back, how to delegate and who to trust is the key to accelerating growth and ensuring long-term success. Article #13 in a series exploring the big questions that entrepreneurs ask as they’re starting up and growing their businesses.

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Delegation begins with trust. An earlier article in the series discussed trust in great depth, and we encourage you to read that before continuing on. Being able to trust and delegate is the key to accelerating growth and ensuring long-term success.

Trust is a two-way street.

You will be trusted more if you demonstrate both trustworthiness and trust in others with both your words and behaviors. Jordan Schaenzle writes:

To feel happy and secure in the workplace, your team members will need to trust you as their manager. They need to know that you will support their career growth and advancement. It’s also important for most folks to know that they can impact the workplace because they have a manager who listens to them and respects their opinions.

That said, it’s also very important that you trust your team. No matter what type of manager you are, you’re going to be making commitments that will be dependent on the effectiveness of your team and what they can deliver. To confidently sell your team’s work either to your clients or your supervisors, you’re going to need to trust in your team’s abilities and their motivation to produce successful results.

Delegation is the key to success. Trust is the key to delegation.

John W. Myrna wrote in Employment Relations Today that

organizations that require managers to “delegate down” are increasing their overall productivity beyond the 25 to 33 percent rate that is the average for most companies. As a result, they are beating their competition without making additional investments in people, programs, and systems. This alone would seem enough motivation for most organizations to make delegating a priority. However, even in companies where top executives take delegating seriously, something prevents managers from following through.

What holds managers back? Myrna writes that reasons for avoiding delegation include:

  1. They don’t believe you really want them to do it.
  2. They don’t want to do it (or don’t understand how/why it helps).
  3. They don’t know how to do it.
  4. They don’t have a structure/path to follow.

So how do you learn to trust your delegation?

The simple answer is: start strategically, with cell 1 in the table above, and work from there. You don’t have to assume competency in all matters. You don’t even have to assume trustworthiness. Rather, trust that:

  1. your delegate is competent enough to complete the task,
  2. your delegate can be trusted to act in their own self-interests with regard to the task at hand, and 
  3. your delegate’s self-interests align with the organization’s interests, and
  4. the organization’s interests align with your self-interests.

If you can’t even start here, then you have bigger problems than trust. You have an HR problem. If you’re a senior leader and your managers are unable to effectively delegate, the problem probably lies in one of these four assumptions.

How good are you at delegating? Let us know in the comments below.

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