by Steve Adubato, PhD

One of the most challenging leadership traits that many professionals struggle with is the art of effectively delegating. So many people go from being top-notch technicians, clinicians and experts in their field to becoming managers and leaders of others without getting the appropriate and necessary coaching and training.


Too often, these professionals have a very difficult time making the “critical shift” from super worker to visionary leader with the ability to assign specific tasks and responsibilities to other team members. Many of these professionals who have achieved success by getting great volumes of work done become frustrated with the pace and effectiveness of those reporting to them. When this happens, the leader/manager is tempted to fall into a counterproductive and dangerous mindset that says; “If you want a job done right, you have to do it yourself.”


Sometimes, this is true and there are situations where a leader or manager, even at the highest level of an organization, has to step in and do the actual work himself. However, when this becomes a pattern, the manager in question winds up trying to do the work of many team members and, in turn, becomes a less effective team leader. Further, such micromanaging and inability or unwillingness to effectively delegate also sends a powerful message to employees that their leader is not only able, but clearly willing, to do everyone’s work and therefore, employees become disengaged, unmotivated and apathetic.


Many of my coaching clients and seminar participants will tell me that they would love to delegate more if only their people would perform as effectively as they do themselves. On the surface this makes sense, but in practice, such an attitude can only produce greater frustration and fatigue, and the leader in question winds up being unable to see the forest from the trees because he is engaged in so many tasks. With this in mind, consider the following tips and tools to more effectively practice the complex, but all important, art of delegation:


--When delegating, be absolutely clear on why the task is so important and what success looks like. Be concrete. Paint a picture and also communicate to the person to whom you are delegating exactly what your expectations are and what role you will play in this process.


--Establish hard deadlines and a timetable so that you avoid confusion when delegating. Too often, leaders and managers delegate a task by simply saying; “Joe, I need you to take over the Johnson account. Get me an update as soon as you can.” What exactly does it mean to “take over” the account and when exactly does the manager want the update? What does the report look like? When delegating, managers and leaders must be precise and specificabout dates and times. Not doing so is a prescription for delegation disaster.


--Delegating doesn’t mean dumping. When you delegate a task, the manager must stillbe accessible to offer advice and coaching. Make sure you set aside time to meet with the person to whom you’ve delegated the task in order for him to ask questions and get your insight into how he is doing and how he can be more effective in carrying out this assignment.


--When the delegated task is completed, if done well, take nothing for granted. The smart manager shows appreciation by directly communicating his satisfaction; “Joe, I am really proud of the job you did on the Johnson account. You took a huge load off my shoulders and I was able to accomplish so much for our team because of it. I’m going to let corporate know of your efforts. Thanks so much.”