Boss, Stop Delegating Work

My two year old daughter, Rona, is piecing together a puzzle, and she is really frustrated, as she is trying to join two unrelated pieces together. At one point she nearly tore the piece in two, when I saw that I really cringed, she is going to ruin the puzzle. I really have to hold myself back from just taking the piece and doing it myself. But I can’t because if I do, what will she learn? To keep myself from actually just solving the puzzle, I cook dinner and let her work it out herself. It’s frustrating, but I really need to be patient.

I am actually a control freak. Perhaps like many managers I hate the unknown, or to let someone else deal with our tasks. What if he doesn’t do it as well as I can or just the way I do it? What if he doesn’t understand what I need? From my experience, this is normally the case; I don’t get what I want from delegating. When I read about it I found many tactics and checklists like Johanna Rothman (The Delegation Check list)_ The checklist looks fine, but come-on, have you really delegated this way – it is so complicated and you are not guaranteed success if you use the checklist.

So what’s the point of delegating, if I am still worried if the work is being done and need to check every step they take? I’ll just do it myself and just get it done. Sound familiar? So how do I delegate work? Well I don’t, or I try not to, because you can’t really delegate work.

So delegating is critical to success. You simply can’t do everything yourself. But it is impossible to delegate, how I get out of this tangle; I am beginning to feel like Rona and her puzzle. This is where is hit me, you can’t delegate work, but you can empower people, you can delegate responsibility. Delegating responsibility is simple, but it required a lot of patience to empower people.
1. Tell the person the end result that you expect,
2. Ask them if they can be responsible for it.
3. Ask them when they think it will be ready.

For example:
1. “To get more developer to write unit tests, we need it to be easy to write the fake statements”
2.”Can you be responsible for that?”
(Here you will get many questions…)
3. “When do you think it will be ready?”
(Work with them to break down and prioritize tasks, or wait till they do it themselves)

This way we turned things around, your staff member should come to you and ask you what he needs to do in order to get the project done, instead of the other way around. The employee needs to come up with the questions. You shouldn’t have to lead him.

Let them lead. I know it can be scary, and things will move more slowly at first. But as they build and execute their plan, they learn. A good manager lets his employees make mistakes as part of the empowering process.

It’s hard to let go. But when you understand that as a manager, it is your job to empower and grow your team, you will learn to sharpen your swords instead of cutting down the trees yourself. Sharpening the swords takes a lot of patience, but when you take a step back and look logically, you can see the need.

I still trip on the slippery hill of delegation. It’s really hard to stay out of their way and let them work.

The best delegation is when you give a responsibility that is a bit higher then what the employer himself believes that he can handle. As I say: I believe that my team can do more then what they themselves believe. The message you deliver is that you believe in him. They might fail once or twice but by the third time, you have another empowered employee that can do much more than he ever thought he could. That is, as long as he has the necessary abilities, he will not fail. But you will need patience just like I need with my two years old, and after all, I’m not asking my two year old to cook dinner, but to finish a puzzle.

  1. “The employee needs to come up with the questions. You shouldn’t have to lead him.”

    I really disagree with this statement. The boss is the LEADER. And as such he is expected to LEAD his people.

    When you expect employees to take the lead from you, you may find yourself waiting until heck freezes over.

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