Learning to delegate is a skill that I, myself, am still
trying to learn. It’s not that I don’t think others can do things as well as I
do, it’s that I don’t think they can do things as quickly as I need them to. Taking time out to explain how to do
something just adds to the timeline.

This is an attitude I need to fix, however. Delegation is a
critical skill, according to ProfessionalismMatters, Inc. founder Dana Brownlee. Yet, it’s completely underutilized in
the workplace.

Brownlee has found through her experiences that most leaders
don’t delegate because of an emotional barrier to fear of losing control which
actually ends up costing leaders more long-term. In the end, these kinds of
leaders rob employees of the ability to enhance skills, communicate a lack of mistrust
to others, and foster the “perfection” disease).

While “letting go” may be uncomfortable at first, Brownlee
has developed a “delegation dilemma plan” that teaches leaders how and when to
exercise their delegation muscles. Here are some of her tips:

  1. Start small. Don’t
    delegate something that is mission critical. Delegate something small
    (initially) and work your way up to delegating larger, more important tasks.
  2. Seek the right
    fit. Everything shouldn’t be on the table for delegation not just because of
    the importance of the task but also because some tasks are a better fit for the
    particular person you’re delegating to than others. This doesn’t mean that they
    shouldn’t stretch to develop new skills, but look for areas where they have
    unique ability, interest, or insight if possible. Maybe they’re a skilled web
    developer but never presented a new website to a client. This task, while new
    for them, pulls on their natural strengths as well and provides them a
    “confidence cushion,” so to speak.

  3. Don’t have
    unrealistic expectations – encourage them to put their unique footprint on the
    task. Remember that there is a difference between someone doing something
    “wrong” and them not doing it the way we would have done it. Style differences
    are just that. If they prefer circle bullets, and you prefer squares, keep it
    to yourself!

  4. Ask the
    recipient what level of support/communication they want. Everyone hates the
    micromanager who “half delegates”. Avoid this by asking them how often they
    want to check in with you, etc. If they propose a timetable that doesn’t
    provide enough feedback in your mind, ask if you can check in more frequently
    initially and then reduce the frequency as the task progresses.

  5. Reward effort and results. In order for others to
    truly learn, they need to feel that it’s OK to make mistakes. Indeed in a
    learning environment, effort is as important as results. If they’re stretching
    their abilities and trying new things, that in itself is an achievement and
    should be acknowledged. With increased confidence comes better results so don’t
    focus on results exclusively. If you’ve now conquered your fears of losing
    control, you must begin to help them conquer their fears as well.