“Delegating is developing… not dumping.” In other words, leadership is not about doing the things you’ve always done, and it’s not about passing on your least favorite parts of the job. What exactly is leadership then, and what should delegating look like?
Leadership is about changing your priorities, work values and time management. As a leader, as opposed to an individual contributor, you are responsible for not only your work, but the work of others. Your “job” is now fundamentally changed, as your priority is now working through others, guiding your reports, and meeting the needs of your reports. Your day is going to change, and you cannot “do the leadership stuff at night” and the “job” during the day and be effective at both. Attempting to be a leader and an individual contributor at the same time is the gateway to burn-out.
Leadership is about developing others. Coaching and building up your reports is now your job as leader. You have to ensure that your team has the necessary skills to do their roles and grow with the organization. Additionally, developing others is one way that you will engage your team and retain top talent.
Leadership is about letting go of the activities or tasks that others can do. While you may have been a strong individual contributor in your last role, when you were promoted to a leader, you need to lead others in even more tasks, and the best way to do that is to let go of the activities that others can do. In fact, others (especially if you hire people smarter than you) may do those tasks better than you can!
Delegating is not simply about throwing a bunch of activities you dislike on top of others. While you may eventually be able to throw a big reporting job or complicated administrative task to a subordinate with more expertise in Excel than you, delegation needs to be a thoughtful process. Leaders must consider the time available to their reports and all the other things they have going on. The timing has to be right, and the intent is not to manipulate reports into more work; rather, the goal is to give them new skills. Passing on duties is an excellent way to delegate and also to find efficiencies and improvements in processes, but leaders must be mindful in the manner and frequency that this is done.