‘Get out of the way until you're needed.’

Leadership communication instructor Deborah Riegel on how to delegate effectively.

‘Get out of the way until you're needed.’

‘Get out of the way until you're needed.’

‘I invite people who are really facing a barrier – a psychological barrier – to delegating to examine what they're actually more committed to: status, popularity, a perception of being important? And then to run some short-term experiments to see if you can still feel important or popular while you're delegating as well.’

So a leader has confronted the psychological barriers and is ready to delegate. How can they do it well? 

‘Number one is decide exactly what you're going to delegate and why. Number two is pick the right person and explain to them why you're delegating to them and use it as an opportunity to give them some positive feedback, or let them know that you're looking to grow their skills and their career and that delegating to them isn't a punishment. 

‘Number three is to clarify the responsibility that you're giving them. What parts of this can they do? What parts of this are they not going to do? Clarify the level of responsibility they have. Number four is to be very clear about what success looks like. What are we looking to accomplish so that you have a shared picture of results or success? 

‘Number five, agree on that person's level of authority. Make some agreements about checkpoints, milestones and feedback – create a motivating environment. So whether it's access to resources or teaching or training on a new skill or cheerleading or quick wins, figure out what this person needs and try to reduce barriers to their motivation. 

‘And then finally, just get out of the way until you're needed. Right? Don't hover. Don't keep checking in. Just want to keep checking and just want to keep checking in. Because one of the goals of effective delegation is to increase trust. Hovering, as my children will tell you, decreases trust. It does not increase anything.’ 

Read more about delegating work effectively.

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