You can’t do it all
We work with a lot of business leaders. We seem to say one thing to them over and over again – “learn to let go”. We know it’s hard. After all, they’ve built something and they’re proud of it. They know how it all works and they know where they want it to go next. They’ve created a culture, built a team and hired people personally. They followed a dream when no-one else believed in it; and now it’s working. It’s a success.
Success, whilst hard won, isn’t guaranteed to stay. Successful businesses often grow quickly, with lines of communication getting more and more complex. The original team is joined by new faces with new specialities. Soon, overseeing all the detail becomes impossible. In rapidly changing business environments, command needs to break away to de-centralised control. At this point leaders need to realise a simple truth: you simply can’t do it all.
If you love it let it go!
We believe there’s always a better way to do things, so we also find ourselves saying: “You know that team you hired? They were inspired by you. They believed in you. They validated your ideas and helped you make them real. You need to trust them like they trust you; and nothing says I trust you more than letting them take a lead themselves.”
Delegation isn’t chance
Delegation is an action. It’s given and it needs to be directive. It’s not a time for politics, but a time for clarity. There are some things that can be done to make an easy transition. Here are seven top delegation tips for business leaders:
- Boundaries: Make sure that when you ask someone to look after something for you, you set clear boundaries and then stick with them yourself.
- Independence: It’s not true delegation if you keep interfering. No one experienced enough to be a leader likes to be micro-managed or have people peering over their shoulder all the time.
- Freedom: Don’t stop them from making a few mistakes along the way – it’s how people learn.
- Clarity: Don’t mix roles and responsibilities up. People need to lead in areas they are experienced in.
- Encouragement: Be there for them. Encourage them to come to you for advice and counsel – and when they do, be in the room, listen actively, make eye contact and don’t cut them off.
- Respect: Don’t be afraid to disagree, challenge or dispute – but do it privately. Undermining people is easy to do, but it is corrosive. Help them build credibility, rather than sewing seeds of doubt.
- Objectives: Make sure goals are clear and achievable. Moving the goal posts or setting impossible targets is unfair and unkind.
Delegation is an opportunity
Many of the leaders we work with claim to be overstretched. In reality, this can be hugely understated – manifested by emotional stress that can affect their performance at work and their personal lives.
The good news is that this stress can be avoided if they learn to delegate well. In fact, good delegation is often the only answer. We’ve met CEOs that are still doing the accounts; line management outside of the leadership team; getting deeply involved in product requirements – and then also complaining that they don’t have time to lead. The knock on effect is generally negative on everyone in the business.
Delegation is an opportunity to change that, but it takes courage. Remember though, that when good leaders seek the opportunity to delegate they then also have the mental fortitude to step back once they’ve committed. It’s not as easy as it sounds!
The lost art of delegation
Effective leaders delegate. They make time and space for themselves to do the one thing that no-one else can do: be the chief impediment remover. There’s no need to feel bad about giving yourself thinking time, it’s a key part of being a knowledge leader. As a tool to increase productivity and reduce stress it seems to have gone out of fashion – we just know that our clients who delegate well, run better businesses. So, our advice: learn to let go, you can’t do it all. Lead, don’t over-stretch yourself with tactical tasks… find the lost art of delegation.