Originally published in Career Insider August 2013.
Are you a current leader in your firm - possibly a Partner, Manager or Supervisor? If you are, you understand that one of the skills you must develop is that of being able to delegate effectively to team members. Unfortunately, we must also negotiate the missteps that can derail us from being able to move some tasks from our list to others on our team.
Misstep #1, Not Understanding the Investment of Delegation
Every professional should have an estimate of what they earn per hour and for those in our profession that is easy if you are still entrenched in the billable hour. So take a look at your to do list and your job description to identify how much time you put into the various items you engage in each day and then figure the investment you are making in those tasks. Are there things that you are spending ample time on that could really be done by someone at a different level that could save the firm a considerable amount of money simply by moving them off of your plate to theirs? In our profession, putting the dollars to the tasks can often motivate you to delegate.
Misstep #2, Not Identifying the Appropriate Delegation Targets
As a leader in your firm you should make a commitment to teach and mentor the next generation. Delegation should be a natural step in the flow of guiding our top talent. Know your team and understand what they do well then delegate the items, tasks and projects for which they will claim success. Also make sure that you are identifying tasks that the individual needs to learn in order to increase their skills. If you are thinking “goodness, this is going to be a lot of work,” you are right! No one will ever tell you that delegation is easy but the end results are worth the effort.
Misstep #3, Not Ensuring that Everyone is on the Same Page
Managers often forget to make sure they and their employees agree about what a successful outcome would look like and then they are surprised when the final work product is not what they were expecting. To avoid this “implementation gap” always talk explicitly at the start about what a successful outcome would look like. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting to get on the same page from the very beginning of a project and ensure that accountability is clear for both you and your team member.
Misstep #4, Exhibiting Behaviors that Impede Trust
When you are ready to hand off a project to someone on your team, do it in public and express your commitment and faith in their abilities. This an important step in building trust not just with that person but your entire team. As the delegation process continues, share successes publicly but never express disappointments in public. That is best dealt with in private and with the attitude that you are mentoring and coaching, not taking the task back. Telling people they have full decision making for the task when they really don’t is a great way to kill trust.
Misstep #5, Allowing Ego to Get In The Way of Progress
Don’t allow yourself to be that person who says “I can do it better” or “I can do it faster.” Of course you are and you can – but that is not the point of delegation. Turn your confidence into a strong ability to communicate, motivate and promote those that are a part of your future! Be willing to truly let go of the project or task that you are turning over. Relinquishing ownership and allowing the team member to truly do the work on their own and in their own way – including making a few mistakes of their own – is vital to the process.