Tips on delegation and growing a layer of management for busy managers and founders of growing technology companies – from the 2017 series of Threads discussions.
Discussion host: Peter Cain, growth and change consultant at Anamosys
If you remain in charge of most things you become a bottleneck. You’ll start to make poor decisions as good decisions need good information, and you can’t keep track of everything. Letting go is the only way for a business to scale, so start today.
Making delegation a habit
When something needs doing, the first question to ask yourself is “who can I get to do this?” as a way to make delegation your first port of call.
Beware of your own ego, aka technical ‘pride’. It’s not all about you. It’s about the team and your ability to maximise the ability of the team. Leaders need a degree of modesty so as not to overwhelm others and assume that their way is best.
Delegating to empower others
Consider what happens if you don’t let go. How that looks to other staff; like you’re driven by ego; like you don’t trust them, like they will never have a chance to make a difference, like there is no point in showing initiative.
You can’t micromanage leadership. Ultimately this creates a command and control culture where people do as they’re told or leave to do good things elsewhere. Let people make their own stamp.
Delegation is empowerment followed by coaching. What you need to do is:
- Involve people from the start, don’t just hand over a done deal.
- Explain the background so that they can see the whole scene and not just their little part.
- Give them real responsibility. Make it like it’s their own baby.
- Support them but don’t take over. Learn to ask questions about the way things are going without appearing to be critical or directing.
- Encourage them to try new things, their own ideas and not just yours or what’s been done before.
- Accept that others will do things differently from you, and that this may be a good thing. They may be doing it a better way.
Good delegation is a way to give people management experience and to try them out.
Don’t always delegate to the same person. This could just shift the bottleneck.
First ensure that the person is motivated, engaged and also has capacity to take on the task.
Delegate in a way that suits the person’s profile, their learning style and the degree of support they need. Adjust the level of granularity that you give to suit each person’s needs.
Reaching consensus on expected outcomes
Define what ‘good’ looks like, sharing any known unknowns, concerns or risks upfront. This takes the pressure off the person receiving the task.
Anticipated outcomes or deliverables must be clearly defined upfront. Often one person will feel the task is clear, while the other may not. Probe. Double check.
It’s okay to define the rules as you go, so long as everyone is in agreement with the method, outcomes or deliverables.
Measures & giving feedback
Seek qualitative feedback along the way, and feedback from peers. If you’re disappointed with the progress or outcomes, it’s probably because you left it too long before checking in.
With KPI’s, less is more. Ensure people work towards the objective, not just the KPI. Percentage-based KPI’s are universally understandable, fostering a shared sense of success if publicised.
Refining how well you delegate
Rejuvenate your desire to teach. Inspire and engage your team to deliver tasks as well as you can, to the standard you desire.
Refresh yourself with delegation techniques, and situational leadership. Don’t just adopt the pattern that mirrors your own strengths.
Some engineers prefer specific and defined tasks, allocated in series. Others prefer many parallel tasks, towards a larger goal or deadline. Many may wish to remain do-ers, while others seek to become leaders or managers, doing their best work through that of others. Make sure you know who likes which approach.
Founders appointing a CEO may seem the ultimate delegation, allowing the founder to concentrate on their strengths, or to return to things that got them into the industry originally.