business coaching

How to delegate in a way that doesn’t undermine your team

Michael.Kenihan

Leading a team means you will invariably have someone or several people reporting directly to you.

The most important thing is to get the best out of your team members.  This does not imply that you must constantly be directing them or chastising them when a job is not done to your satisfaction.  The mantra of “others never do the job as well as I can, so it is not worth teaching or delegating to them, is part of the reason that team leaders often fail to get the best from their team. This “I will just do it myself” attitude renders them unable to build a strong and productive team. Instead, the leader must forego their ego and accept that the delegation process can be slow, acknowledging that at first they may have to receive work that may be at a lower level than their own.

Delegating tasks is a crucial part of achieving an objective and to developing strong independent workers who make decisions with confidence and authority,  instilling greater competence and growth within them.

This said, it is still important to find the right balance of delegation. The lowest level is to tell somebody to do something and report back immediately. This base level delegation  is common in parenting when teaching one’s child to be more independent. In contrast, the highest level of delegation is to trust your team to make decisions and report routinely about progress and outcomes.

My biggest bug bear with watching leaders delegate is to see them constantly undermining those in their team. This includes asking them several times about progress or even chasing up others to see if the task is done.  Finally, what really irks me is when the leader has their direct report delegate a task/message to a subordinate, and the subordinate, unhappy with the task, bypasses the authority of the direct report and contests the leader. The issue then arises when the leader grants the subordinate's request without reference to their direct report. This is a breakdown in communication that shows little respect towards the direct report by both the subordinate and the leader themselves. This often leads to a lack of trust, unhappiness amongst team members and in a lot of cases, resignation.

The fabric of leadership is a fickle one, and the onus is on all parties to maintain balance.