John is a manager and has seven people who report to him. He grumbles that no one measures up to his skill level. Yes, he attempts to delegate the work that comes into the department to each of his employees. But he always finds fault with what they’ve done. It isn’t done exactly like he would do it and he complains they don’t follow instructions. They walk on egg shells around him because they don’t want him to come down on them. They take no chances at ‘best guess’ solutions because they don’t want to fail. They come to him with a zillion questions and don’t take initiative to figure anything out on their own. Sometimes they put the job back on him saying ‘I don’t know how to do this’, or ‘I’m not sure who to contact for this information’ and John takes the job back. He winds up staying quite late many nights, grumbling that the company hires the worst people and he has to do everything himself.
Angie is a manager in the same company, different department. She also has seven people working for her. She meets with each person each week and has the employee tell her what he got accomplished the week before. Sometimes she finds out that the employee got something accomplished in a very effective way that would have never occurred to her. The employee then states what is on board for the coming week and where he could use her support. She coaches the person by asking questions to help him discover what would be the most workable way to get that job done. She encourages each person to reach out to resources within the company. She suggests the person try something a couple of ways so he can fail forward, learn by making mistakes and then improve. She asks individuals to take on ‘stretch’ projects, projects they’ve never done before so they can discover their talents and develop confidence. Angie’s staff are 50% more productive than John’s and Angie leaves on time every day.
What’s the difference in the way these two people delegate?
Delegation is a mindset issue about
who you’re being and what you believe.
What does that mean? Most people would define delegation as giving tasks to other people to do. That’s true for both John and Angie. Let’s look more deeply.
If you believe that you’re the only one who knows or can do a job, that all others are less skilled, less knowledgeable, less committed, and less capable, then being in control and micromanaging is the resulting action that is generated from your beliefs. After all why would you totally give the job to someone else if you feel they had no chance for success at creating the solution you are responsible for? If they can’t possibly do this task, you might as well do it yourself from the start because you’ll wind up doing it over anyway. From this belief you feel the need to watch over someone’s shoulder because without your direction, they won’t do it right. And you know the right way, the only way. When you do delegate and they come to you for assistance, you take the task back because it’s easier to just do it yourself.
If you believe that people are smart, are eager to learn, have the capacity for evolving and growing, then the actions you take are empowering them to further their growth. You provide them with opportunities to learn, to fail, to try on new things, to expand their networks, to discover for themselves. You coach them by asking questions so they can figure it out and have the joy and confidence of knowing their own capabilities. They show more initiative, make more decisions, trust their own judgment and more gets done faster. You don’t become the bottleneck. They try on bigger projects. They work with each other and brainstorm different outcomes that are better than one mind alone (yours) could accomplish. They bring their life experiences to bear and contribute more than one person ever could.
The difference is being an enhancer rather than a diminisher. If you see your employees as small, all your actions will be about proving and demonstrating their smallness. If you see them as big people, you will give them the latitude to show off their ‘bigness.’
Once people sense that you are encouraging them to grow, they step into it. It may take longer for some than for others. If you worked for John for 10 years and then got transferred to Angie’s department, it might take you a little while to adjust to the expectations of the new environment.
A management researcher named McGregor put together an assessment on a person’s management belief system. I’m happy to give it to anyone over the phone so they can see how they truly act along a continuum between the two opposites of 100% enhancer and 100% diminisher. You’ll learn if what you say is the same way you act.
Your thoughts about being an enhancing delegator or a diminishing delegator are welcome. Have you worked for either one and what was your experience? Have you been either one and what was your experience?