As you start to lead more people, you can get to the point where it feels like you don’t have time to do anything but deal with your team’s needs and issues.
I have met many frustrated leaders in exactly this situation. They feel overwhelmed and miss the days when they did things themselves. Luckily, there is a simple concept that can help address this frustration. I am talking about understanding the difference between tasking and delegating.
In his leadership courses, Linton Sellen explains the difference well:
When we task, we are assigning things to people based on their ability to complete the task. For example, here at IBEX, we recently chose Thea to take a picture of the group because she is a good photographer. This is how we first get more work done than we can by ourselves – by sharing the tasks with people capable of performing them.
The problem is that people don’t know what to do once the task is done or if they hit an unexpected snag. They are left having to come back to ask for more instructions. If you have a large team and you are only tasking, you will become the stressed-out bottleneck of your whole operation. It will feel like everyone is trying to “get a piece” of you – to get their next task or get instructions on how to handle something out of the ordinary.
When we delegate, we are assigning responsibilities to people based primarily on their ability to make good decisions in certain situations. Just as you understand the strengths of the different members of your team to perform different tasks, we need to also be looking for and developing strengths around making decisions and assuming authority. When we see the capacity in someone to make good decisions, we can move from tasking to delegating.
For example, a business owner recently told me how his life changed for the better when he moved from a competent, but needy and decision-averse bookkeeper to a similarly competent, but highly trustworthy and confident one. The first one performed well and kept good books, but she refused to make even simple independent decisions, like calling suppliers on questionable invoices. She seemed to need to tell someone what she was doing and despite the owner’s best efforts to have her take on responsibility, she could not. His new bookkeeper, the opposite type, has great judgment about when he needs to know something and, in his words, he has “a new lease on life.” This is the power of delegating to good people.
In addition to what delegating does for us as leaders and managers, there is no doubt about the engagement boost for the person who succeeds in winning their leader’s trust and effectively taking over whole areas of responsibility.
When you have a whole team of people performing well, with high levels of delegation, you suddenly have the opposite problem than feeling like you don’t have any time. You start dealing with feelings of being redundant. That is a sign of your delegation success!