Delegation is not always easy to do. In the Personify Leadership program, participants identify many obstacles to effective delegation. But these obstacles are not insurmountable, they are just part of the learning process. Here are some great examples of leaders I’m working with who have identified some highly effective ways of overcoming obstacles to delegation. I’d like to share their success stories with you and some of the key lessons they’ve learned.
Ego free direction and support
Shannon is a Vice President at a well-known high-tech organization.
If you ask Shannon’s peers, direct reports, customers and boss to say what it is that Shannon does so well, they’ll tell you she is known for her outstanding business acumen and ability to bring creative solutions to her organization. When you ask Shannon how she is capable of dedicating so much time to working at a strategic level, she will tell you it’s because she delegates well. She cited several delegation examples where she offered others the opportunity to select the exciting and highly visible projects if they were qualified to manage them-as opposed to hoarding those projects for her own benefit.
Shannon shared the following reasons for her approach and success with delegation:
- If you provide people work they are inspired to do and let them do it, they will perform well
- If you proactively look for signs that a team member is stressed or needs support and then step in to assist, they will appreciate you and work hard to deliver at a higher level
- When you let your team shine and give them the credit, they often exceed your expectations
One hand up and one hand down
Justin is a Regional Director for his organization, overseeing six business leaders with complex teams all reporting into his organization. Justin recently had two key business lead positions he needed to fill. After careful consideration of internal and external candidates, he hired one business leader from within the organization and one who was external. The internal candidate came from a very different role in the company and requires a Hands On development approach. The external candidate has brought a wealth of experience to the organization that does not require Hands On management and therefore he works more Hand in Hand with Justin.
Similar positions, but two very different leaders with very different expertise. Rather than approaching both of these leaders the same way, Justin is finding that each leader requires something different of him. He spends much of his time with the externally recruited leader picking his brain for insights he himself does not have. He described this process as having one hand down to support and pull a leader up, while he has one hand up and learning from the other.
Justin gives the following advice to other leaders as they consider delegation:
- Learning is an ongoing process and leaders need to be open to learning from their delegates as much as they are willing to develop and grow others
- Knowing what the delegate needs of you is critical in providing necessary direction and support
Expectations met with consequences
Louise is a Managing Director for a team of leaders in Latin America. When he took the role 18 months ago, he found a team that was stagnate. He spent time getting intimately familiar with each leader’s challenges and opportunities. He sat with each of them to set what they agreed were aggressive but achievable goals. Depending on the needs of the leader, he worked Hand in Hand when necessary and Hands Off when the leader was making good decisions and demonstrating vision and measurable results. Ultimately though, not every leader was able to step up to the challenge. Recently, Louise had to make the hard decision to move a couple of leaders into different roles. Louise said he knows he challenged them, but he feels good that he did the right thing to help them grow. Some of them demonstrated they were not capable of doing more, and that’s okay for them. However, the organization needs more from their positions, so he made tough changes for the organization’s growth.
After talking with his leadership team this last month, here are some things I heard from them about Louise’s approach.
- “It isn’t easy to have to step out of a leadership role into a supportive role, but I know it’s the best thing for the organization and ultimately for me as well.”
- “Louise has challenged me to grow and I’ve been able to rise up more than I anticipated in such a short time.”
- “I know Louise cares about me, regardless of what decision he makes about my progress.”
Some questions for you to consider:
1) Are you providing interesting and compelling work for your team or others in the organization? Or are you hoarding these projects and exposure for yourself?
2) Are you finding ways to grow and learn from others? Are you open to insights and perspectives from the ones you lead?
3) Can you make the tough calls when providing direction and support have not resulted in expected results?
What is your best practice with Personifying Leadership? If you have a story you’d like to share, please email asebaly@personifyleadership and in the subject line put: Leadership Success Story.