Have you ever had a boss who took on too much work and as a result, piled project after project on to you? Did they do so without understanding your skills, ability and motivations in work? Did they take your success as their own and blame you for any shortcomings? – All of those things? They aren’t what Delegating Leadership is about, in fact – they’re all great ways to show that you are an ineffective Leader that’s in it for themselves instead of being in it for your team. If you want to know how to Delegate effectively, so it benefits you, your team and your organisation, this article has been built for you. We break this article down into 2 sections; Delivering Greatness where we cover 6 Must-do’s for this style to work and the second section Dodge Greatness where we cover 4 things you need to avoid to be successful.
Before we being, your Follower should be Able and Motivated before you use this Leadership style, if they are Able but lacking motivation, consider Participating Leadership, if they aren’t skilled but they are motivated, consider Selling Leadership and if they are neither skilled or motivated, consider Directive Leadership. These 4 styles are part of Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership model, where they believed that the most effective way to lead is to change your style based on your Followers Readiness level (a combination of skill and will). Delegating Leadership is the last style within this model.
Delegating Leadership can be tricky, some people see it as a way to just reduce their workload and whilst this is a benefit of the style, it can also be a risk. To ensure you are Delegating appropriately, you need to cover these 6 key points; Knowing yourself, Knowing your team, Team Development, Creating time, Job satisfaction and Motivation and Creativity and Innovation.
Leadership is about achieving the mission, it’s about putting your ego in check and utilizing the best tools you have to get the job done. Delegation requires you to be humble, to admit that you cannot do it all by yourself and that there are likely people who will do it better than you, even if you could do it on your own. It means you have to keep your ego in check and trust that your team will deliver and that you don’t always have the best way forward (even if you think you do).
Be mindful that delegating leadership isn’t about micro management. It is a method of leadership which requires you to provide very little support to your Follower as they will already have the skill, will and understanding of the mission to accomplish the task with a high level overview.
Knowing yourself is an important part of this leadership style, understanding your limitations and ability to give others control will impact how successful this style will be for you. You will need to provide your Followers with the necessary power and room to complete their tasks whilst still being personally responsible for the outcome.
Consider asking yourself these questions:
- What can I do to be confident in giving others full control?
- How can I communicate the outcome clearly and concisely?
- How can I balance being hands off and knowing if the project is on track?
- How can I be aware of the difference between ‘must-haves’ and what I ‘think’ is the best way forward?
- What can I do to celebrate my Followers success and take ownership of the short-comings?
Knowing your team
When your Follower is at Readiness level 4, they have the skill and will to do their tasks to a high standard. The first thing to acknowledge here, is that if you are delegating to someone, they should be an R4 Follower – someone who is both skilled and motivated to do the task you are giving them.
It is therefore on you to be able to understand your teams skillsets and levels of motivation. A great leader will continuously understand where their Followers are in relation to their skill, will and motivation levels. If you want to start off on the right foot when Delegating, ensure your Follower is at the right level with their skill sets and their focus for achieving the teams goals. If they aren’t then you will likely cause chaos for the project, your relationship with your Follower, their confidence levels and your perceived competence.
- Do I trust this person to deliver to the expected standard? If not, how could I get there?
- Will they come to me if they are stuck?
- Do they have access to all of the resources (internal and external) they need to get the job done?
- What skills will they need to achieve this task?
- What might motivate them to complete this task?
- What support will I need to give them to make this successful?
Consider these questions before delegating any work, otherwise you could be setting your Follower, the project and your relationship up to fail. That said Delegation is an investment in your Follower that has benefits for them, the organisation and yourself, so don’t just write them off on your current assessment. Instead, shift your focus on how to get your Follower to Readiness level 4 as you will both likely benefit from this initial invested time.
One of the main benefits of this Leadership style, is that providing your Follower is at Readiness level 4, this is a great way to develop their skill sets further.
Delegation should stretch your people, whether that’s upskilling their Leadership capabilities, Project Management skills, honing their relationship management and levels of influence, working on their time management or even their confidence. By being given the reigns and responsibility, your followers have the opportunity to learn many lessons, become future leaders and assets to your organisation.
Consider these questions:
- How will this project benefit my Follower?
- What skills could this teach them?
- What strengths could they utilise?
- How can I empower them to succeed?
- How am I going to ensure my Follower looks at any failure as opportunities for growth?
This is probably the main reason people delegate and one of the major benefits. When we pass tasks to someone else, we create space in our day (…probably for more tasks – yeah, no such thing as a break for Leaders – haha). This is one of the amazing benefits of having an R4 follower to share our objectives with. This Leadership style is very hands off, providing your Follower shares your vision and understands why the mission is in place, you shouldn’t need to spend much time clarifying what needs doing or how actions should be carried out. When you have a true R4 Follower, you have not only saved yourself time by delegating the task but also removed the need lengthy briefings and progress meetings. A check in meeting is important every now and again but if your Follower tracks their project in a Gantt chart or similar, all you need to do is have access to that sheet and occasionally touch base to see if they are okay.
This will allow you to spend time where you are able to add more value to the mission. You will likely be less stressed and thus, be more effective in your own work. Delegation isn’t about passing your work off to have free time, it’s about creating space so you can better achieve the mission.
Questions to consider:
- How will I use this spare time?
- Is this the best use of my resources?
- How much time will I need to put aside for project updates?
Job satisfaction and motivation
When you are trusted to take the reigns on a project, especially for the first time, it feels pretty good. It tells you that your manager respects your skills and trusts you to deliver to a high standard.
When people feel responsible and trusted in their role, their levels of engagement, accountability and motivation increases. Where job satisfaction is high, people are more effective in their roles and become more productive. We can see then that by placing our trust in our Follower, their job satisfaction will increase and they will become more effective in their role. You need to demonstrate trust and psychological safety for your Followers here, so they feel motivated and safe to both succeed and fail.
Questions to consider:
- How can I show my Follower I trust them to deliver?
- What will I need to do to ensure they are not overwhelemed?
- How will I ensure they have the resources they need?
- How can I keep this satisfaction and motivation high once the project ends?
Creativity and innovation
Delegation leads to innovation. The world is full of different personalities, with different life experiences, passions and motivators. Two people, experiencing the exact same event may have completely different views and memories on what happened during that shared experience. That is because we see the world through our own beliefs and values.
For example if two people were made redundant at work, one may ask ‘why do bad things always happen to me? I don’t know what to to.’ Where as the other may think ‘This is the nudge I needed, it’s time to start something new and exciting.’
By handing the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of a project to your Follower, you are giving them permission to create what they think is the best way forward. Providing you haven’t surrounded yourself with yes-people or people exactly like you, there’s a good chance they will be able to innovate new ways of completing tasks or even streamline processes to become more efficient.
This is still something I am amazed by today having been in Leadership for such a long time, it still inspires me when someone comes up with an idea I hadn’t seen before or wants to try something I’ve already seen fail – sometimes the different twist someone puts on a tried technique can create absolute magic results for the team, the project and their confidence levels. You just have to trust them and evaluate risk levels. If you think the idea has an 80% chance of success with minimal impact if it goes wrong – let them run with it, you’ll both likely learn if it goes wrong and the benefits can be huge if it goes right.
Consider these questions:
- What are the chances of this succeeding?
- What are the impacts of it’s failure?
- What could the benefits be?
- How can I give them room to experiment?
- How much of my ego is stifling their creativity?
Now we have looked at how to Deliver Greatness with this Leadership style, it’s time to look at what to Dodge to ensure you use it effectively to support your team, organisation and self with Delegating.
There is a real risk when delegating work that your Follower will get disconnected from the team and the wider business objectives. One of the positives we discussed earlier was the accountability and ownership that comes from being given control of a project. For some Followers, this becomes the sole focus for them and they begin to work in silo. If you have multiple people working on their own projects and they all end up in their own silos, they lose sight of the wider picture and the bigger objective their project feeds into.
It is vital that during delegation, you keep your Follower involved with the wider team and mission. The danger of working in silo and wanting to complete your workload before all else, is that you can become selfish to the rest of your teams needs. There is no point being proud in getting all of your work done on time if the team failed their mission, worse would be if by putting the team after your own workload, you caused this failure. Ensure that your team know what each other are doing and any risks or opportunities they are currently facing.
Consider these questions:
- How can I help my Follower see this project links to a wider objective?
- What can we do to keep communication high?
- How can we keep the team spirit and mentality?
Delegation will always have an element of risk and it can be both a daunting and stressful experience wondering if you have made the right choice. First of all – you need to ask if you have have correctly evaluated your Followers Readiness level. Do they have the necessary skills and motivation to complete the task to its desired standard? If not, what is the risk to the project, your reputation and potentially the overall mission should something go wrong?
The next risk comes from the low supportive nature and hands off approach of delegating leadership. Unfortunately, some people may take advantage of this approach and inflate the amount of time they have spent on the project. It may even go so far that people will mark off that they were in work but never bothered showing up. We hope that this risk is low but it is a gamble we take when putting our trust into people. At the end of the day, a good leader takes accountability, so if this has happened to you, ask yourself what could you have done differently to get a better result?
One great way to reduce the risk is to reinforce the importance of the project, the team and the organisation. Link your Followers values to the operation as much as possible to help mitigate this risk. The deeper you can connect the task to the person on an identity level, the easier it becomes to motivate them. Building great relationships with your Followers will help reduced the odds of someone letting you down.
We can see that there is an element of gambling when delegating to someone else, so it’s important that you stack the deck as much as reasonably possible to mitigate the risks and ensure that the Follower and their delegated task have the best chance of success.
Consider these questions:
- What can I do to link this project to their values and sense of identity?
- How did I honestly evaluate their ability and motivation levels?
- How have I fostered an adult and honest culture amongst the team?
- What could I do to give this project the best chance of success?
One misconception about delegation is that it removes all responsibility and ownership from the person delegating out the task. It couldn’t be further from the truth – you still own the task, you are still responsible for delivering the outcome on time and to the required standard.
It is up to you to provide the high level vision of what the task will look like once complete, why the task needs to be accomplished and what objectives it needs to achieve. The more you get to know your Follower and they get to know your intentions and expectations, the less time you will likely spend here. Ensure you are open for questions and available to support when needed.
I’m sure we’ve all met one person who delegates just to pass on work. They are neither giving out the task to develop their follower or wanting to take responsibility if the task doesn’t meet expectations. Don’t be that Leader.
People can see through a Leader who is out for themselves and this behaviour may lead to resentment from colleagues as they just see you as shirking responsibility. Even where this isn’t the case, there is the risk that this hands off leadership style will give people the impression that you are disinterested in the mission. Ownership here is all about balance, know that you own the delegated work and are responsible for the end result but trust your Follower to deliver. Give your follower the knowledge that if they need further support or clarification that your door is open. Consider asking for meetings to discuss the tasks progress or just casually checking in as part of a normal conversation, showing interest without stepping on toes.
Consider these questions:
- How can I balance accountability and empowerment?
- What can I do to take ownership of any issues or short-falls?
- How can I demonstrate interest whilst being detached from the day-to-day tasks?
Misreading Follower Readiness
As with all of the styles within the Situational Leadership model, their effectiveness depends on your assessment of your Followers Readiness level. For example, if your Follower is either Readiness levels 2 or 3, they will not have the appropriate skills or knowledge to complete the work effectively. This may lead to:
- Impacts on your Followers confidence levels and morale
- Frustration for your Follower, yourself and any others that are impacted by the work
- The project failing or falling below standard
- Reputational damage for yourself, your team, your organisation and your Follower
The other alternative is that your Follower has the skills but not the motivation or will to do the task. This may mean they will lack the level of ownership and autonomy required to work on a delegated task. There have been instances where this can actually move a Follower to Readiness level 4 as it gives them the will and motivation knowing that others are relying on them. If you misjudge here though, your Follower may take advantage of the hands off approach as discussed earlier, which can:
- Impact team morale (why am I doing ‘x’ when they aren’t?!)
- Risk of the project not being completed on time or to the required standard
- Reputational risks
Questions to consider:
- What skills do they have for this project?
- What skills will they need?
- Can these skills be developed as part of the project or do they need them first?
- Are they motivated for this?
As you can see, the Delegating style of Leadership is a really powerful tool providing that you deliver on the following:
- Knowing yourself – can you put your ego to the side and be the leader your team needs you to be to get the job done?
- Knowing your team – are they at Readiness Level 4 – Able and willing or motivated?
- Development – consider how this style will help develop your Follower(s).
- Creating time – How can you use your newly acquired time to help your business win?
- Job satisfaction – one of the main drivers for engagement is having responsibility and opportunities.
- Innovation – encourage Followers to create, not replicate.
Whilst delegating, we also need to dodge:
- Disconnection – keep your followers connected to the team and wider purpose
- Gambling – stack the deck, limit the risk.
- Lack of ownership – remember, you are still responsible for the outcome.
- Misreading Readiness levels – make sure you know your Followers.
Delegating is an extremely useful leadership style that when utilised correctly will develop your team, allow you to efficiently meet objectives, increase job satisfaction and add more value to the organisation. Thankyou for reading this article, click the below links to utilise our resources on this leadership style:
Delegating Leadership one page guide
Situational Leadership reflective guide