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Delegating Barriers and Breakthroughs

The Leader's 3-2-1: Three Insights, Two Questions, One Statistic.

Topic: Delegating Barriers and Breakthroughs

An essential leadership attitude to master: the delegating mindset.

While working with clients making the jump from individual contributor to leader, I've noticed three mindset barriers they must break through in regards to delegating:

  • “It's easer to do it myself.”

  • “I don't want it to appear I'm dumping work on my team and not working hard myself.”

  • “A good leader should be doing everything the team does."

Moving past these barriers prevents burnout, increases energy and promotes an overall sense of thriving. Without a delegating mindset, a leader might get stuck in a liminal space: not devoting full attention to either contributor or leader. Neither role getting the benefit of a leader's full time and energy.

Transform from doer to leader. Delegating barriers and breakthroughs in 3-2-1:

Three Insights

Increasing returns, not immediate returns.

Mindset barrier: “It's easier to do it myself.”

I'll ask clients: is your approach right now really easier? What struggle would you rather have…perpetual exhaustion from overwork or temporary discomfort from learning a skill that ultimately saves time and energy?

Mindset breakthrough: Delegation is a tool for increasing returns, not immediate returns. Delegating tasks will take work at the onset to train the delegate. However, returns multiply with time and effort in training diminishes with time.

Strategy: Delegate low stakes aspects of the task first, then slowly increase to higher stakes. Use contrasting to create clear needs, wants and expectations for the task:

  • “What I want to see is… What I don't want to see is…”

  • “What I need is… What I don't need is…”

  • “What I expect for results is… What I don't expect for results is…”

Delegating develops your team.

Mindset barrier: “I don't want it to appear I'm dumping work on my team and not working hard myself.”

Delegation is a form of asking for help, which may feel vulnerable up front, but everyone wins on the other side. Your employees will feel more useful and valuable, and you will feel less burdened and burnt out.

Mindset breakthrough: Giving others the opportunity to use their strengths or to grow their skills is developing the team, not dumping on the team.

Strategy: You can't control whether or not you are criticized for delegating - humbly let that go. You can control how mindfully you communicate the task and its benefits. When training the delegate, communicate at least one of the following:

  • “The value you bring to the team by owning this task is…”

  • “The skills you can grow and add to your resume by owning this task are…”

  • “The strengths you can maximize by owning this task are..”

Your duty is to lead the team, not do every task of the team.

Mindset barrier: “A good leader should be doing everything the team does.”

Leadership requires social, emotional, creative and cognitive labor other roles on the team won't carry. Leaders must have space to stomach awkward conversations, make difficult decisions, advocate for resources, create effective strategy and develop the team towards goals. You serve the team by freeing up time for these tasks.

Mindset breakthrough: Your duty is to lead the team, not to do every task of the team.

Self-coaching: No matter best intentions, sometimes you will be misunderstood, take heat and be disagreed with. It's the nature of leadership. Trying to please everyone's version of what a good leader is will only lead to frustration. I like to ask clients:

  • “What are you willing to be criticized for?”

  • "What choices are aligned with your vision and values so much that you are willing to take the heat for them?"

  • “What decision moves you closer to the results you want to create?”

TWo questions

"What is the most likely cause of failure? Before it happens, how can you prevent it? If it happens, how can you recover?" -James Clear

Do not delegate a task spur-of-the-moment without preparing first. Use this question to reflect on potential challenges your delegate could face. Also, train them on how to approach you with questions: do you want them to problem solve first? Ask three other people first? Google it first? Explore freely with trial and error? What are the roles of all parties involved?

What can make delegating difficult is lack of clarity on roles. When delegating, note the following information on roles where necessary: Who is responsible for the task? Who is accountable for the task? Who should be consulted while completing the task? Who should be kept informed on progress of the task? (Melanie Katzman)

One Statistic

25% In a study on where CEO's spend their time, Harvard Business Review found that 25% of the overall content of their work was devoted to people and relationships. Another 16% is devoted to organization and culture, and another 21% devoted to strategy. While many leadership positions are not as high level as a CEO's, this study provides a snapshot of the difference between doing and leading. -The Leaders Calendar, Harvard Business Review

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