Delegating for Career Advancement

Let me ask you some self-reflective questions…

“When you were promoted to a leader of people, were you promoted because of your technical expertise?

“When you were promoted to a leader of people, were you asked if you want to lead others?”

“Did you think leading people is an expectation of your organization in order to advance in your career?”

The answers to these questions are important as you reflect on delegation in your role as a leader of people.

Face it.  Many leaders are promoted to a leader of people based on how well they achieved results as an individual contributor.  Theory being if you excel in your area of expertise you will excel at leading people.

Well, we know what challenges that theory can pose, whether you are that leader or a direct report of that leader.  What many leaders don’t realize as they make this shift from managing oneself to managing others is it requires a skill and mindset shift.

Skills such as relationship building for personal benefits and getting results through personal proficiency diminish and more focus is on getting results through others, thinking bigger as to the success of your team, department and organization.  All of a sudden, feedback and coaching, managing performance, rewarding and motivating, communicating, listening and building relationships up, down, sideways for the success of your team and department now become the key priorities.

Wait, is this what we signed up for?

There are 5 steps to delegating for career advancement that I would like you to consider:

The first step is to be self-aware of how much you value these new skills and mindset – as your success now is ultimately contingent on the success of your direct reports.  If valued, it enables you to have more time to focus on critical issues that will help you best achieve the results expected of you and move your department forward AND help your directs grow and develop through accepting and achieving more challenging tasks or assignments.

The second step is to be keenly aware of what delegating is and isn’t. Delegation is the assignment of authority, responsibility and / or accountability between two or more people to carry out a specific task or assignment.  By definition that sounds great.   However, how many times have you felt when your manager delegated work to you, that it was more “dumping” of work, randomly unloading a task to you with no real level of clarity, direction or accountability?  So when you think about your directs, be mindful how they may perceive how you delegate.

The third step is to understand the reasons why you may not delegate enough.  What is causing your hesitations?  Is it…?

  • Loss of control
  • Lack of trust / your standards are very high
  • Lack of experience / skill / knowledge of direct
  • Lack of time
  • Level of perceived risk it may pose
  • Loss of visibility or acknowledgement for yourself
  • Fear/insecurity of “letting go”

Identifying your reasons will help you problem solve. So own it.

The fourth step is to realize there are different degrees of delegation.  Adapted from Situational Leadership II, The Ken Blanchard Companies, for ease of reference, I categorized the levels as 1) Beginner 2) Novice) 3) Intermediate 4) Expert (which is the degree your direct report understands the organization’s business and direction, organizational processes, culture, as well as level of knowledge, skills and abilities in role).   Depending on where your direct report is on this continuum, you would…

Level 1: Beginner – Provide Context & Goal, Desired Results, What to Do, How to Do It

Level 2: Novice – Provide Context & Goal, Desired Results, What to Do

Level 3: Intermediate – Provide Context & Goal, Desired Results

Level 4: Expert – Provide Context & Goal

As you can see, the higher up you get in level, the more supportive and less directive you become. Therefore, you are building trust and a sense of authority, responsibility and / or accountability versus it feeling like dumping or micromanaging.    

Keep in mind the ONE area that remains regardless of level is “Context and Goal.”  Why? Because everyone needs to understand how his or her work ties into the bigger picture.

When you delegate be sure to communicate the who, what, when, where and why and sometimes a bit on “how to approach the work” particularly for a beginner or novice.

The fifth step is to practice skills that help you delegate in a way that empowers your team for success.  These skills include:

  • Clarifying goals
  • Helping your directs prioritize what is most important
  • Creating two-way dialogue to ensure mutual understanding
  • Asking questions and listening to your directs’ perspective
  • Giving feedback and checking in 
  • Acknowledging accomplishments and offering praise
  • Building self-reliance

Gallup’s research states that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores, so think about how you can use your authority and influence to delegate in a way that empowers your team to excel and surpass your expectations. By default, you will have helped advance your career.

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JM Consulting Group, LLC