Today I begin a series of "Better life@work" tips, inspired by real clients of mine and their challenges to create a better life at work for themselves.
While I've changed names and identifying information, the issues and solutions remain the same. I'm selecting themes that many people face at work in hopes you can get a fresh idea or two to try out at your own workplace.
Don't confuse delegating with dumping. Dumping work involves taking your most tedious or least appealing projects and handing them over to someone with little thought or explanation. Dumping work gives you the illusion of efficiency, until you're called in to fix the messes that follow.
Steve, a marketing director at a growing West Coast firm, was a client of mine who desperately wanted to learn how to delegate better. He knew he should have been spending much more time at strategic meetings and gaining more of a bird's eye view of his group, but he was still mired in deliverables and having trouble deciding what to delegate, how to do it, and to whom.
The biggest challenge was his perceived lack of time. In back-to-back meetings much of the workday, he left evenings and early mornings free to "catch up" on email and his own work. If he didn't do this he'd become the bottleneck for essential projects. When would he have time to delegate?
Steve needed to be thinking smaller. He assumed that relief would only come if he figured out how to re-work several large projects. Instead we found one area that offered a pretty straightforward delegating opportunity, where the stakes were fairly low if there were total failure.
Total time to decide on, prepare and delegate in this instance: 1 hour.
Relief felt: immense.
Over time, Steve became a good delegator. Here are his top six tips for success:
- Know your staff's competencies. Trust them.
- Look for small tasks and projects to delegate at first.
- Clearly communicate directions, resources at their disposal, your expectations and a deadline.
- See delegating as the key to others' development. Support others' development. If you're the only one with knowledge, the team loses and you burn out.
- Be available for questions.
- Immediately address any problems or shortcomings.
However, there are certain situations where delegating is not your key to a better life at work:
- Your entire team is completely swamped. (Your priority is managing, redistributing and negotiating workloads).
- Unresolved personnel issues make delegating doomed to fail. (Time to address underperformers and deadwood rather than keep putting up with them).
- There isn't anyone to delegate to because you have no reports. (Outline a plan of what could be delayed, done differently, or done by another team and discuss it with your manager.)
Up until we worked together, Steve believed that it was too risky to trust his team with responsibilities he'd had for years, that delegating took too much time to bother with, and that letting go would mean letting go of a sense of "indispensability".
But when he decided to experiment with delegating he found that it allowed him the freedom to serve the organization at a more strategic level. He began to enjoy his ability to develop and grow his team. He got more weekends and evenings back to spend with his family. In short, his life at work got better.
What about you? What can you delegate? What's holding you back from doing so?
photo credit: lumaxart