There is an old Chinese proverb which says “Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.” Anyone who has spent even a scant time in the corporate world knows that the only way to move up in career is to delegate. And why career? Even in personal life, delegating work is a very important ingredient to not only make time for oneself but also help others grow.
However, the art of delegation doesn’t come easy to most, and that’s one of the reasons why people stagnate in their jobs.
For a manager, let alone a leader, and a successful entrepreneur, the difference between success and failure can well be reduced to the ability to delegate.
Steven Covey summed it all up beautifully when he said, “We accomplish all what we do through delegation – either to time or to other people”, which also goes well with the maxim that you can do anything, but not everything. That’s for the paucity of time, talent, or sheer willingness!
Most employees get promoted by being good at ‘doing stuff’, or solving problems which have been asked of them. However, the same hands-on, bias for action and a trouble-shooting mentality can well come in the way of being an effective manager. The first-time managers often face this dilemma, almost on a daily basis, on where to be hands-on and where to be hands-off; how much to do oneself and then get others to do. Delegation is the key, especially in a time when talent is highly mobile, and opportunities are widespread.
This piece explores the essence of what makes for a successful manager and that micromanaging oneself is often more important that micromanaging others, which is mostly a mirage. I reckon that the starting point is one’s priorities. To that accord, the more effective managers pay close attention to hiring good talent, setting broad guidelines, and learning to let go. Let’s discuss in detail.
Get the right people in your team and wrong people off
My practice of and consulting on management has revealed how much, and often aimlessly so, managers spend time marshalling their teams to the desired outcomes. For someone who has made her mind of not giving-in, no amount of incentive, especially positive, can be of avail. It happens when the manager doesn’t sanitise the team she’s supposed to lead, and hopelessly keeps pushing the naysayers into a desired direction. That’s an utter waste of time for everyone involved.
The ‘who’ matters more than the ‘what’ or even the ‘how’. By not having the right people in your team, right in terms of competence, desire, or work ethics, even incentives become a passé.
Delegation is an act of selfishness than selflessness; and yet most people don’t get it — by giving away you move ahead
The idea is to be very selective of the people you get in your team. Else there is little hope. You can steer reasonable people in a useful direction, but building talent or work ethics is almost impossible. That’s the reason why one is better off being an individual contributor unless one has a choice of picking the right talent. Direction comes only after you have the right ammunitions, be it warfare or business. By not having the desired talent at hand, the managers, especially the first-timers, spend a whole lot of time micromanaging others and hence, fail to move up the value chain. There is no one worth delegating to! Whom to blame? Oneself.
Set broad guidelines and leave them alone
Micromanagement is the peril of having wrong people in the team, or not being clear about what’s to be expected of the right ones. Most first-time managers, and even the oldies, who can’t let go of their interference attitude, often fail to set the right expectations and performance measures. The minimalistic guidelines, especially in terms of ‘what’s to be achieved’ and not ‘how exactly’, not only helps the subordinates develop but also makes manager’s life far better.
Think of it that if you still have to tell someone, with at least sixteen years of formal education, on how exactly something is to be done, then I don’t think we are leaving any room for one’s creativity or imagination. Better is to have machines do the work, which is already the case in several domains. Stripping people of their power of discretion not only creates a toxic work environment, but also makes the manager’s life miserable. No one grows as a result.
Remember, it is always 70 percent and go
One of the biggest concerns around delegation is that the other person to be entrusted with should be as good as yourself. Till such time, delegation really doesn’t happen. But think about it—can your own sibling match your competence? Most likely, not. How can a mere mortal in your organization or team be expected to be as good as you? Isn’t that too much to expect. The fact of the matter is that the other person doesn’t have to be as good as you to perform the task!
Most delegation efforts fail not because the ineffective managers fear the task failure, but its owing to a strong sense of insecurity. The dirty little secret of delegation is that if a person is just about 70 percent ready for the task at hand, just give her a chance and move on. Afterall, all of us are the products of chances bestowed upon us, mostly when we weren’t fully prepared. So why not pay it forward?
With this 70 percent ready talent, only two possibilities could arise—the person fails to deliver, or with time, the person becomes 150 percent of you. For failure, learn to tolerate it, and for over-achievement, celebrate it. In any case, you have learnt a new skill. The bargain is always worth it. Without delegation, you are stuck; but by letting go, you at least free up some of your time to do more profound things, and help someone else develop in the process. So, it’s a win-win.
To sum up, effective managers don’t micromanage other’s time, they micromanage theirs. First, by hiring and selecting right talent; second, by setting broad guidelines; and third, by giving people a chance when they are just about 70 percent ready for the job. Tolerating others’ failure and oneself moving up to higher plains is the only way to help holistic growth. In fact, delegation is an act of selfishness than selflessness; and yet most people don’t get it. By giving away you move ahead.