Yesterday, my colleague Kande McDonald and I convened a webinar on delegation. There’s a lot of good will, good intention, and frustration out there. We feel you. Our message: technique alone won’t change delegation. To make change, leaders at all levels look under the hood to see what’s driving them.
Some of the frustration develops when managers and project leaders adjust their approach to delegation but get the same result. When the kid gloves are off “frustration” is just another way of saying, “I’m (a little) angry that things aren’t changing.” And that can grow into, “I’m angry at you. Maybe at me, too. But definitely at you.”
Here are two insights you might be able to use:
Learn first, even if you think you know
We tend to solve problems first. That’s what makes you a good contributor or manager. Take a different view and learn first.
Step back from the situation and list all of the “shoulds.” “I should be able to [insert the work here] and he should be able to [insert your expectation here] because of his [insert skill, knowledge, experience, ability, etc. here].
Examine the three big assumptions: I should…, he should…, and because of his…. Now explore those assumptions with the person your working with. His perception of each of them – even his ability as a result of experience – is likely to be different from yours.
Your perspective is limited. Build a common understanding of what’s real with the people you work with.
What kind of leader do you want to be?
When I lead a small team, I want to be the big thinker, the supporter, and the coach. These are good goals. And I don’t like doing work that makes me appear to be the disciplinarian, the accountability keeper, “that guy.” “I work with great people and they should be able to….” They should.
But they may need something very different from their leader, particularly for new, challenging, unfamiliar, or less rewarding responsibilities. You might not want to be that kind of leader. But your people may need you to be that kind of leader.
Further, don’t confuse being the leader they need with the leader they’ll like. Chances are you’d like to work for the leader you’re trying to become. But that’s you. Your people are different.
Are you holding onto a model or idea of a great manager that’s getting in the way of meeting your people where they are?
You might also like:
Delegating to Develop People (on the blog)
Delegation: It may not be what you think (on the blog)