As with so many leadership topics, the topic of delegation starts with you. Especially as a first-time leader it is important to realise that a mindset change has to take place. You are now a leader and it is no longer your task to be an expert in the topics. It is quite normal that this needs a bit of an adjustment. Ask yourself: What do I want to be perceived for? That I am an in-depth expert on topic X or as a leader who empowers his/her team and makes it shine?
Which tasks are so important that they should be done by you personally? Creating an overview in the form of the Eisenhower Matrix can help you here. Focus your time on the important tasks. Tasks that are urgent but not important for you personally can be given to your team.
If you find it difficult to hand over certain tasks, ask yourself: What do I need to be able to hand over the task with a clear conscience? Often coachees answer “Knowing that person X from my team will do the task well”. What can help you know this? Does person X have the experience needed for the task or does he/she still need training or background information that you should share with him/her before starting? Can you give person X a sample task to see how he/she does and then do a feedback session together?
Also consider which tasks you want to delegate directly to certain team members and which ones you want to give to the whole team for discussion. This way, the team can decide autonomously how to divide the tasks among themselves.
When assigning responsibility to individual team members, it is of course good to see who is capable of doing them in terms of competencies and past performance. My recommendation, however, is not to lose sight of the “systemic team rules”. These are unwritten team rules that often unconsciously influence the dynamics in teams. Here, factors such as how long a person has been in the team, how much commitment he/she shows, etc. could also be decisive for how much the team feels that it is someone else’s duty to take over tasks from you.
This means, for example, that the person who has been in the team the longest and has perhaps been looking at taking over tasks from you should be considered first in the selection process. Now it could be that you want to give them to someone else for performance reasons, for example. In that case, it is important that the task transfer is OK for the person whose turn it would have been due to longer team membership. See which other task or responsibility you can give to this longstanding team member which feels valuable to him/her. This way you minimise the risk of resentment in the team!
Of course, you can also openly share the tasks you want to delegate with the team at a team meeting for self-organised distribution. In this way, team members can proactively decide among themselves who is interested in taking over certain responsibilities from you.
It is important that you clearly communicate your expectations when delegating. What is the desired end result? What is the time frame? Only if your team member knows what the frame is and ultimately the goal, you can then give constructive feedback in case the outcome is not what you expected. Without clear expectations at the beginning, it is difficult to give good feedback at the end!
The distribution of tasks in the team does not have to be set in stone. Set a time frame together after which you can discuss how it fits for everyone involved and if necessary delegated tasks can be changed.
Over time, with these tips, you will see how it becomes easier to delegate. Hopefully you will experience that you can trust your team to take the responsibility. Looking at the Eisenhower Matrix gives you time as a leader to focus on the issues that are important but not urgent to successfully lead your team in the long run!
Would you like to feel even stronger supported in your first leadership role? Katrin also offers a new product to support first-time leaders even better: The First-Time Leaders Community. It includes a self-paced video training, regular workshops and exchange with peers, and optional individual coaching sessions. Learn more and sign up today if you think you can benefit from it!
photo by Lucie Greiner