An executive’s first step towards greater efficiency may simply be learning to let go.
Business executives who want to increase productivity, boost morale, and strengthen workforce commitment within their companies can begin by letting others take larger roles in the decision making.
Not only will sharing your higher-level responsibilities positively impact company culture, it will relieve pressure on you, allowing you to be more productive, especially in the area of long-range planning.
A Gallup study of the executives who lead 143 of the most successful businesses determined that “companies run by executives who effectively delegate authority grow faster, generate more revenue, and create more jobs.”
Many Potential Reasons
So why are so many leaders reluctant to hand over the weighty reins of decision making? And, why do we hold on even when there is more on our plates than we can give sufficient attention to? Is it fear of being perceived as weak or incapable, and then being bettered by someone else? If so, these may be the real weaknesses we need to address.
Is it because we struggle with the quality of what we delegate, worrying that they are not sufficiently empowering? If so, bear in mind that it is the act of showing faith in someone that really empowers them more than the task they are given.
Finally, could it be that you don’t believe anyone else on the payroll can perform the task properly? If so, you have a hiring and staffing issue you need to deal with. Gain confidence that you have a team you can trust to perform up to your standards.
Seven Roads To Sharing Responsibility
- Learn to let go – This is not so easy for entrepreneurs who built a company and are obsessive about getting things perfect. However, if you’ve hired great people you are likely to discover they bring fresh insight and solutions. Start small if you must. But start! Delegate only small tasks and gradually work your way up.
- Create a priority system – Demers recommends creating at least four categories, grouping tasks by the degree of effort and skill required. Keep the most demanding for yourself, but be aggressive in dividing up your load among your leadership and outstanding other employees based on their proven talents and history.
- Determine staff strengths – Part of being able to effectively assign tasks according to the categories you create, is knowing the strengths – and weaknesses – of your team. Be aware of fellow “plate pilers,” those who for whatever reason will take on more than they can perform effectively. This isn’t an exercise in moving the problem to someone else! As Demers says, “Too many leaders delegate to whoever has the lightest workload or is the most convenient.”
- Always include instructions – Here we get to one of the points I made earlier: communication. So often this is at the heart of a problem – any problem. Make sure when you pass on an assignment that you are clear about what you want, how you want it done, any available resources that may be useful, and that you are available to clarify if necessary.
- Be willing to teach new skills – In line with being available, always be generous by sharing your knowledge and experience. Not everything can documented in a company handbook. Look at opportunities to engage in some enriching mentoring.
- Trust, but verify – If done properly and willingly, the task you delegate will carry an implied measure of faith in the person you assign. That is a gift and it should be treated carefully. Check progress, with a light touch, especially if it’s a new relationship that you want to build. Keep it within the context of a teaching experience, but don’t give up on it. You don’t want to simply snap back the work and return it to your plate.
- Use feedback loops – Encourage feedback and acknowledge success. Your team directly contributes to your success. If a team member misses the mark, take them aside privately and offer constructive criticism. Be sure to involve your team in giving you feedback as a leader. A leader should always seek to be more efficient and communicate better with the team.
Remember, it’s going to be a learning experience for you, too. In his book Developing the Leaders Around You, John C. Maxwell wrote, “If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.”