Learning to Delegate

By Rhoberta Shaler, PhD

Has anyone ever asked you to take on a task or project and then hovered over you while you did it? That can be so annoying! It is imperative that leaders and managers learn to delegate in the true sense of word. It means "to entrust to another". By no means does being hovered over embody the essence of trust.

As a leader or manager, you already know that you need to delegate some aspects of your projects. On the other hand, you are aware that your reputation or credibility is on the line. Your promotion may depend on it, so, naturally, you are reluctant to keep your fingers out of the project.

No matter how difficult it seems, you must think about the long-term relationships you are creating. Those people who are working for you to make that big impression are the same people you are likely going to need again. If you have explained the project accurately, emphasized the need for the deadline to be met, and, you have their agreement and understanding, your job is to get on with the parts of the project that only you can do. Trust your staff.

When you delegate a task, be sure to take enough time in the initial conversation to assure yourself that the person can, in fact, do the task. Then, agree on the details and deadlines. Have regular meetings for progress reports, questions and support. That will eliminate concern for everyone. But don't be watching over their shoulders every minute. Your anxiety over the success of the project will not be well-served by making everyone else anxious through your micromanaging.

If you are the one being hovered over, here are two questions to ask yourself: 1) Do you believe you can do the task without supervision, and 2) Do you understand the fear your project manager has?

If you are comfortable with the task and are confident you can accomplish it without excessive supervision, talk to your manager. You may want to say, "I know this project is very important to you. I want you to know that I can do this for you and I can do it on time. I hope that will free you up to focus on other aspects of the project."

You'll often find that just bringing up the underlying fear and giving it a name can change the dynamics. By offering assurance in this form, you have supported your manager without complaining about the hovering. Be pro-active and save both of you some irritation and anxiety.

Learning to delegate is one of the most difficult things new managers can face. It feels like giving away control and that can be daunting. Front load the issue. Take the time to talk out the project and make agreements about format, style, timelines, and desired outcomes. Then, take your fingers off!

© Rhoberta Shaler, PhD All rights reserved.
Dr. Rhoberta Shaler solves 'people problems' at work by making it easier to talk about difficult things. Dr. Shaler speaks to, trains and coaches executives and entrepreneurs worldwide in the communication skills essential to creating powerful conversations that reduce conflict & anger, build trust, and streamline negotiation. She is the founder of the Optimize! Institute in Escondido, CA. www.OptimizeInstitute.com

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