Control freak? How to delegate effectively in 6 simple steps

Jun 13, 2019

One of the biggest challenges new leaders face?

Learning how to let go of control and effectively delegate.

It’s a hurdle many of my clients have experienced. And one I’ve confronted in my own career too.

A decade ago, I worked in a corporate consulting role where high performance was rewarded. Like most professionals who are technically excellent at their jobs or top performers, I was promoted based on results. Suddenly, I was responsible for leading a team and business division.

Progressing to my first management role in my mid 20’s, I hadn’t yet developed the skills to effectively lead others. I had high expectations for myself and my team and struggled to let go and delegate. And I held the false belief I had to do everything myself for it to be done properly.

Later, when I started my first consulting business, I continued to do everything myself. Despite working longer hours than I ever had in the corporate world and surviving on little sleep, I refused to hire help. My desire for perfection and inability to let go of control resulted in long hours, stress and eventually burn-out.

Whether you’ve moved out of corporate to start a business, or into your first leadership role, delegation is one of the most difficult, yet important skills to master.

Are you a control freak?

Read on to understand why you struggle to let go, the negative impacts of control and benefits of delegation. Learn how to effectively delegate and become a successful leader in 6 simple steps.

WHY YOU STRUGGLE TO LET GO

First of all, as a new manager, it’s challenging to transition from doing everything yourself to delegating work and leading a team. Even if you don’t have employees, as an early stage business owner you may struggle to let go and outsource work to external providers. And you get stuck working ‘in’ your business, instead of ‘on’ it.

Also, delegation challenges stem from a deep, anxiety based fear of letting go. Or, the need to take charge and have control over everything. You may secretly fear being controlled by others or maintain control to avoid vulnerability or rejection.

You believe no-one else can do the work as well as you. Or, it’s simply easier to do everything yourself. In some cases, the desire for competition or challenge drives the need to control. Consequently, this leads to micro-management or direct communication which may intimidate or frustrate others, negatively impacting team relationships.

COSTS OF CONTROL

As a new leader, you’re given greater responsibility and more complex work. If you fail to delegate tasks you no longer need to handle, your workload will grow. Time management will become a challenge and your workload unsustainable. This leads to stress, overwhelm and potential burn-out.

The desire to control also keeps you small. It stops you expanding your business or client base, learning new skills or developing professionally. Instead, you stay in your comfort zone.

Additionally, poor delegation frustrates your team. Perfectionism is the root cause of the belief no-one can do a task as well as you. Your desire to oversee everything holds up projects and micro-management can aggravate staff.

BENEFITS OF DELEGATION

Letting go of control and learning to delegate frees up your time. This allows you to remove any tasks you’re not good at and don’t enjoy. The energy draining work you procrastinate over. As a result, you’ll improve time management, take on fulfilling work and complex tasks to develop professionally.

Above all, delegation is an essential skill of effective leadership. It increases productivity, performance and gives your team the opportunity to learn new skills. And therefore, helps you build more effective relationships with staff members.

HOW TO DELEGATE

STEP 1 – NOTE DOWN ALL YOUR TASKS

Before you can identify what to delegate, firstly you need to understand what those tasks are.

Start by taking stock of exactly how you’re spending your time.

Make a list of all the tasks you complete on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

STEP 2 – DECIDE WHAT TO DELEGATE

Ask yourself – what can I delegate?

Start with tasks you don’t enjoy, anything outside your zone of genius or responsibilities beyond the scope of your role. Carefully consider what you really need to do, versus tasks you can give to someone else.

If you’re only starting to develop your delegation skills, begin with smaller tasks first and build from there.

STEP 3 – CREATE A PROCESS

Outline a process with clear, repeatable steps. Be sure to give distinct guidelines.

Once you’ve created this process, it will be there to use in future. This will come in handy if your current team member is promoted or ever decides to move on.

STEP 4 – DECIDE WHO TO DELEGATE TO

Next, assign the responsibility to someone. Who can you delegate this task to?

Rather than delegating based on capacity, select the team member with the skills and strengths required for a specific task. Or, the provider best qualified to do the work.

Choose the right person for the job and delegate to them consistently.

STEP 5 – EFFECTIVELY DELEGATE & COMMUNICATE

To start, delegate the task, setting clear expectations around deadlines and milestones. Be sure to outline the process, give explicit instructions and communicate expectations upfront.

Also, don’t micro-manage! Check in or follow-up at regular, agreed intervals but leave the person to get on with the job. This builds trust within the relationship and encourages the individual to become proactive and self-sufficient.

So often, when a project isn’t delivered to a reasonable standard, effective communication is usually missing. Expectations haven’t been addressed from the start or discussed along the way.

Committing to effectively delegating and communicating upfront will save you plenty of time and stress later.

STEP 6 – TRAINING & FEEDBACK

Effective delegation requires you to invest in developing others. Be realistic that training takes time. Depending upon the individual and task, this could take a couple of weeks, to a few months or more. Investing upfront to train team members in your process saves time in the long run. As they learn, you can gradually start to delegate more.

Training creates engagement and buy-in from employees who want to grow and be developed. Each person is also trained in your method, ensuring tasks will be completed on time and up to standard.

Finally, feedback is crucial. Provide support and feedback, including both positive reinforcement and constructive criticism. This is how your team or providers will develop and improve.

Encourage them to be proactive, by figuring it out themselves first but asking for help if needed. Then make sure you’re available to provide feedback.

Feedback from your team is also important, so you can keep refining and developing your delegation skills. Ask for feedback and be open to implementing any necessary changes.

Learning how to delegate takes plenty of time and practice. However, delegation is an important leadership skill to master.

Implementing this strategy has helped my clients and I let go of control, learn to effectively delegate and become better leaders. I hope these tips support you too.

 

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Stacey Back is a Career Strategist, Leadership Coach + Founder of Profile Careers. She helps high-achieving corporate leaders and business owners at a mid-career crossroads find the work that lights them up, increase their income, impact and create a career + life on their terms.

Stacey also supports professionals to transition from their corporate job into their own consulting business. She works virtually with individuals based across the globe.