Letting a junior manager handle live Q&A at a conference...
Handing the keys to a teenager who’s had her license for 1 week...
Sending someone else to a branch office in crisis instead of going yourself...
All examples of delegation, all potentially terrifying.
Consider the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower:
“True delegation implies the courage and readiness to back up a subordinate to the full; it is not to be confused with the slovenly practice of merely ignoring an unpleasant situation in the hope that someone else will handle it.”
Four ideas for you:
- Practice. Start small and build up your delegation muscles with each subordinate and each kind of task. Your team will thank you for this.
- Don’t delegate the main effort – that’s where you as the leader need to be, and where your people expect to see you.
- Tell your subordinate how often you want an update, then don’t violate that schedule unless they do.
- Be clear in your assignment but be brief so your delegate gets to make some decisions. It’s the only way for them to develop initiative and experience.
George C. Marshall sent General Eisenhower to England in 1942, delegating the war against Germany to him, with a short directive, “Prepare for and carry on military operations in the European Theater against Axis powers and their allies.”
17 words of guidance that led to the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and eventually France. George Marshall knew how to delegate! Give it a try yourself.
Related: Six “Hot” Words Leaders Should Avoid