Why em­ploy­ees want you to del­e­gate

The Punch - - NEWS -

Source: www.en­tre­pre­neur.com

He early days of en­trepreneur­ship are both heady and ex­haust­ing: late nights, ris­ing be­fore the birds, fu­el­ing your body with too much caf­feine. Once your busi­ness is run­ning and you’ve hired even a small team, it’s time to step into the next phase. Now you need to lead.

Lead­er­ship is more than as­sign­ing tasks; it’s a way to el­e­vate your im­pact. Ac­cord­ing to man­age­ment con­sul­tant and Har­vard Busi­ness Re­view con­trib­u­tor Jesse Sostrin, “you need to be more es­sen­tial and less in­volved.” Lead­ers have to learn how to del­e­gate – and how to do it well. It’s the only way to step out of the day-to-day work­flow and think more strate­gi­cally.

Yet, hand­ing over re­spon­si­bil­i­ties is easier said than done. Maybe you’re pro­tec­tive of your work, you love per­form­ing a cer­tain task, or you worry about your team’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties. But if you want to grow your busi­ness, del­e­ga­tion is es­sen­tial. And ac­cord­ing to Sostrin, there’s a sim­ple way to tell whether you’re hold­ing the reins too tightly. Ask your­self, “If I had to take an un­ex­pected week off work, would key projects and goals ad­vance with­out me?”

In the early days of build­ing my com­pany, Jot­form, I did it all. From cod­ing to cus­tomer sup­port, I touched ev­ery part of the busi­ness. Once I hired peo­ple to share the work­load, I could fo­cus on im­prov­ing the prod­uct and de­vel­op­ing strate­gies that still serve our 5.2 mil­lion users. I’ve also taken a three-month pa­ter­nity leave and I reg­u­larly go on ex­tended va­ca­tions. Ul­ti­mately, I learned that del­e­ga­tion is an art, and the re­sult is a stronger, less stress­ful work environmen­t and a health­ier com­pany over­all.

TDel­e­ga­tion is em­pow­er­ing

On the sur­face, we del­e­gate sim­ply to man­age an oth­er­wise-im­pos­si­ble work­load. But both lead­ers and em­ploy­ees ben­e­fit from the process. Most em­ploy­ees feel more en­gaged as they take on deeper re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. They feel in­vested and em­pow­ered, and that’s good for ev­ery­one. Be­cause “em­ployee en­gage­ment” has be­come such a com­mon busi­ness phrase, it’s worth un­tan­gling ex­actly what it means.

Dig­i­tal me­dia con­sul­tant John Boit­nott writes that en­gaged em­ploy­ees demon­strate four ob­serv­able traits and be­hav­iors:

A bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the com­pany’s long-term goals and how their work ad­vances those goals

A per­sonal be­lief in the com­pany and a com­mit­ment to its mis­sion

More har­mo­nious re­la­tion­ships with fel­low team mem­bers

A com­mit­ment to keep­ing their skills sharp and learn­ing about in­dus­try de­vel­op­ments

Chal­leng­ing em­ploy­ees with op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn and grow en­sures they’re fully in the game. And it’s ex­cit­ing to see some­one knock a project out of the park. In fact, I of­ten find that staff de­liver bet­ter re­sults and im­prove the un­der­ly­ing process when we hand over the keys and let them drive.

Know how to max­imise your time

Be­fore you can en­trust your staff with new chal­lenges, you need to de­cide what you shouldn’t be do­ing. A task is ready for del­e­ga­tion when:

1. Some­one else can do it bet­ter

Af­ter 13 years in busi­ness, there’s al­ways some­one in our com­pany with more niche or tech­ni­cal skills than me – and that’s fan­tas­tic. It means we’re hir­ing the right peo­ple, and they’re shar­ing that spe­cial­ized knowl­edge across the team.

2. You can save pre­cious time and en­ergy

It’s so easy to fall down a day-long rab­bit hole of calls, emails, meet­ings, and busy­work. In­stead, use your en­ergy to tackle the work that only you can do. Hint: it prob­a­bly hinges on peo­ple and strat­egy. 3. It’s wildly time-con­sum­ing

As a leader, you shouldn’t do work that doesn’t re­quire your unique ex­per­tise. Oth­ers can con­duct re­search, crunch data, pre­pare reports, and lay the foun­da­tion for big-pic­ture think­ing. Re­mem­ber that you can al­ways pick up a project part­way through, once some­one else has tilled the soil.

4. You have big­ger pri­or­i­ties

There’s never enough time in the day, and too many com­pet­ing pri­or­i­ties. When you’re fac­ing mul­ti­ple dead­lines, choose the high­est-im­pact op­tion. Fo­cus there and as­sign the other project to some­one you trust.

Del­e­ga­tion can feel un­com­fort­able even when you know it’s in ev­ery­one’s best in­ter­est, so start small. For ex­am­ple, if you want to re-as­sign an HR process, set a time to walk your em­ploy­ees through it. Once they start to man­age it, cre­ate a cal­en­dar re­minder to re­view their work ev­ery few days, or at an in­ter­val that works for you. Over time, you can check in less fre­quently – to the point where they only come to you with ques­tions.

I started by hir­ing just one cus­tomer sup­port em­ployee. I trained them to take over all the re­quests, then I slowly built a full sup­port team. even­tu­ally, we hired some­one to man­age that team. We re­peated the process with each part of the busi­ness, un­til al­most ev­ery func­tion was sys­temised and run­ning smoothly with­out my in­put. I’m still there, of course, for ques­tions, feed­back, but I’m free to steer the ship.

How to del­e­gate like a champ ef­fec­tive del­e­ga­tion de­mands con­text. You need to ex­plain why you’re re­as­sign­ing a project, and how that project fits into the com­pany’s mis­sion. Next, tell the em­ployee why they’re the right one for the job. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, this dra­mat­i­cally in­creases the chances that they will knock your socks off.

But wait – don’t stop there. Just as you wouldn’t pass the ball and walk off the court, suc­cess­ful del­e­ga­tors mea­sure re­sults and of­fer feed­back. They pro­vide a safety net, of sorts, and check in with their teams on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. Whether you set a re­cur­ring meet­ing or cre­ate an open­door pol­icy, be sure that em­ploy­ees feel sup­ported at all times.

Re­sist­ing the urge to mi­cro­man­age is equally es­sen­tial. The best way to avoid it? As­sign the task, then let your em­ployee fig­ure out how to get it done – other than any nec­es­sary train­ing or sys­temised pro­cesses, of course.

Give them the keys, ex­plain the des­ti­na­tion, and then let them de­ter­mine the best route. This ap­proach en­sures that they feel chal­lenged and val­ued, in­stead of hav­ing a back­seat driver on the jour­ney. Also, don’t sweat the specifics of a job de­scrip­tion. If some­one has the right stuff, give them a chance.

Fi­nally, in­volve your em­ploy­ees in crit­i­cal de­ci­sions. This might in­clude fi­nan­cial dis­cus­sions, strat­egy de­vel­op­ment, hir­ing, or team for­ma­tion. Open­ing up the in­ner work­ings of the busi­ness might make you feel vul­ner­a­ble, but trans­parency al­most al­ways pays off – and your mem­bers of staff will feel re­spected in the process.

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