In my last article, Disconnect urgency from importance, I introduced the valuable tool all leaders should master: the ability to say no. The first step in learning to say ‘no’ is recognizing the difference between important tasks and urgent tasks. You want to be taking care of the important tasks, not just the urgent ones.
Sometimes the alternative to saying no is mastering the art of delegation. Delegating comes naturally to some but, rule-of-thumb, it is hard to most of us. Delegating is challenging because competent leaders normally know that they are themselves best suited to proceed with certain tasks. Most of the time, they are even correct in their thinking.
Exceptional leaders know better: they know that, no matter how superior their outcome would be, they are also responsible for pushing the results of their subordinates to a higher level.
The team member who receives the delegated task will most likely feel proud of being an important part of the team and receiving the trust of the leader. The more complex, more challenging, more fundamentally important the task that is delegated, more motivated the team member will be.
Of course delegating has its costs. The final results might need revision; communication has to be clear and open; checkpoints and alignment meetings might be needed.
There is also another word of warning to the art of delegation: do not delegate everything. The worst kind of leader is the one who automatically delegates absolutely everything that lands on his or her shoulders.
Extraordinary leaders do practical work too when they see the importance of the task at hand. They know better that delegation also has its own work overhead costs if it is expected to be done right. Absolute delegators tend to be simple proxies that add very little value to companies’ machinery.
When done well, delegation will lead to interesting scenarios. Even if the delivered task fails to achieve the quality level initially expected by the leader, at least the team member will know what quality level is expected from then on. Moreover the leader has exercised his leadership, his critical decision-making, and communication skills. Everyone wins.
So, whenever you have an important task at hand, consider whether it can be delegated to someone in your team. Every leader has supportive team members eager to learn new skills.