Constant change requires leaders to excel in the basics

10 skills at the heart of every leader’s arsenal.

“Topic 3 – Creative Delegation Techniques”

written by Wayne Brown

Hello again, and welcome to our series called Constant change requires leaders to excel in the basics – and you’ve already reached topic 3 – Creative Delegation Techniques.

We now have 2 big topics behind us “Understanding your place in the team and Motivating your future team. But I’m very happy to say that we are still just getting started, and today’s discussion is equally important and challenging…

In this 3 pack – video, podcast, and associated blog, we’re going to break down our delegation process under 3 broad questions – WHY delegate, WHAT to delegate and HOW to delegate.

With the first question, “WHY delegate,” – we’ll identify that there can be multiple reasons but explore 3 which are key;

  • The first is to enable us to address stakeholders’ expectations. As discussed in Topic 1, we have numerous Stakeholders with far too many expectations, which we almost certainly, don’t have the capacity or perhaps even the necessary skills to cope with. 
  • Secondly, we have potentially 4 generations and considerable diversity in our workforce today whom we need to motivate and cultivate. 

We spoke about the need and ways of motivating from a neuro-science perspective in Topic 2. We also realize that many of our team are experts in their field and capable of working under pressure and coming up with practical new ideas, leading to positive outcomes.

  • And finally, we simply need time to give adequate attention to doing our job as a leader. To work on those critical tasks such as strategic planning, growth, managing the business, reporting, and team/s, to name just a few areas.

Suppose you recall the conversation about work-life balance from Topic 1. In that case, you will remember that we need to find a long-term solution to managing our workload rather than coping with everything as this isn’t sustainable. 

When adopting the wrong approach, we eventually give inadequate focus, time, and effort to all 3 mentioned areas and thereby fail to reach a successful result more often than not.

So, this covers our question on “WHY delegate.” Next, we turn our attention to the question of “WHAT to delegate.”

This second question starts with the realization that we can’t and shouldn’t delegate everything just for the sake of it. 

Hence, before delegating we need to make a conscious decision about:

  • the skill and willingness of the employee to take on the task,
  • the complexity and urgency of the task,
  • the amount of support we will need or be willing to provide,
  • there’s even the need to avoid delegating some tasks,

So, the leader really must be aware of and consider these questions fully from the outset.

And to assist us with this we introduce two models which come with simple tools as support.

And to assist us with this, we introduce two models which come with simple tools as support. 

The first is from the 34th American president. A gift to business called the Eisenhower matrix, and the second is the skill/will matrix from Blanchard and Hersey.

Before moving onto these areas or tools, we need to first explore a little on the reasons behind some managers’ reluctance to delegate. 

A number of these reasons may sound trivial, or perhaps a few will even sound familiar, but most are common among managers.

Here are 10 limiting statements which we have heard and even seen being played out by various managers – you notice we don’t use the term Leader in this discussion. 

Aside from the fact that we should already be clear that you don’t have sufficient time to do everything – and even in the situation where you work long hours, we know that it’s not sustainable. 

And in all instances, there are actions you can take to alleviate your concerns. 

As usual, you will find links throughout our blog to additional material, which will help deepen your learnings where needed. 

However, if you still need more convincing, please refer back to the beginning of this topic and review 3 key reasons WHY we delegate.

  • With that clarity, let’s examine the Eisenhower matrix – we use it to help us group our tasks before selecting which ones to delegate. 

Typically, we agree that Quadrant 1 tasks are for the leader or manager to handle due to the urgency and importance. 

These pressing tasks often preclude you from having an employee do it UNLESS the employee is already an expert in this area. 

However, it may be a good idea with non-confidential or sensitive tasks to have a team member work on the job with you as a means of developing their skills for the longer term.

  • From the Eisenhower matrix and your groupings, the best area to select tasks for delegation comes out of Quadrant 3. Besides, it will also be useful to choose from Quadrant 2 for specific items.

If you’re unsure how to use this tool, check out the link provided here to a great site, which steps you through the process. 

And we’ll outline under the final category in this topic, “How to delegate” – what to do with this list and how to distribute the chosen tasks among your team. 

Please be aware that there are sometimes where we agree that it’s not appropriate to delegate. The following tasks are examples where we would normally not delegate and are typically leadership and management tasks: 

• Employee evaluation meetings  

•  Strategic planning

•  Team development

•  Final decisions

•  Personnel selection

•  Tasks that have been delegated to you explicitly 

Not surprisingly, you will find most of these tasks in Quadrant 1 or perhaps Quadrant 2. And of course, as mentioned before, it does not mean that you can’t include some of your employees here to assist you and learn from you in the process for future support.

A manager needs to consider one further critical question: the level of support, focus, or control that the task and a team member would require. 

For the task, we should consider the;

  • complexity, urgency, and consequences if it is delayed or not completed correctly. 
  • And for the employee, we need to consider their qualification for the task and motivation to accept the assignment. 

We’ll now introduce our second model to help us address some of these concerns.

Starting with the model called the Skill / Will matrix.

The matrix can be used to assess your employee’s skill and willingness to perform a specific task or project. 

Based on that assessment, you can choose how to best manage the employee towards success. Note that an employee is seldom in one quadrant all the time but is likely to fall into one or more quadrants depending on the task.

Some of the supporting questions you might ask in parallel with your assessment are;

  • Does the employee have the necessary time and resources available? 
  • Does the employee have the essential professional qualifications to be able to successfully accomplish the task? 
  • Does the employee have the required overarching competencies? 
  • Would this task entail an increase in the capability and personal development of the employee? 
  • Does the job to be delegated accord with the employee’s motivation? 
  • How will the team / other departments react if the employee takes on the task? 
  • Will it be seen as fair if the employee is awarded this task? 

We’ve reached the final category, “HOW to delegate,” and until now, we have given you a lot of material, but not really anything new or creative. So that’s about to change!

Let’s first do a pulse check to ensure you’re clear about the tasks you have selected for delegation – if not, these should be sitting in the Eisenhower matrix you prepared. 

Also, you have considered the level of support, focus, and control needed for each task, plus determined with the aid of the skill/will matrix and your earlier work using the SCARF model which employees to delegate to which task.

If you are good with all of these, we’re now ready to go back to your Eisenhower model. Next to the quadrants, if you have not already done so, make a list of all your employees. Beside each of their names and at the top of any delegated tasks, write the words “Activity of Choice  TBC.” 

For the next step – send your team a group communication and invite them to join a meeting – at a date and time of your choosing, provided it’s not too far off. 

As part of the communication, you explain that this meeting will become a regular weekly or bi-weekly event. For the first meeting, each person should prepare at least one work-related activity they would be really passionate about and love to work on – they have the freedom to decide what it is. Still, they need to introduce the topic at the meeting, and it will be voted on and agreed upon by the group.

To open the meeting, you introduce the concept and purpose of this and future meetings. You advise that each team member will be allowed to develop their skills through various tasks or projects that you will be assigned to them. Also, they have their “Activity of Choice” – provided it makes the cut.

Moving forward at these future meetings, each team member will discuss the projects they are working on, the current status, and the next actions. 

By doing this, everyone in the team becomes aware of each-others work and will be required to discuss or contribute ideas to those projects.

Once each new “Activity of choice” is agreed on by the group, the project leader will have the time and resources allocated (after final approval with you, of course).

During that first meeting, you will ask each person to write their desired activity on the whiteboard and briefly introduce it to the group. 

As a group, you discuss the idea, the likely resources, and the time allocation needed? What value might it bring to the group and the business overall? If any other group member has a similar interest and would prefer to forgo their project to work on one of the others, they can do so. 

By the end of this first meeting, there should be a decision about who is working on what activity or project.  

Following this meeting, you meet with each person to detail the activities/projects / or tasks, and we’ll cover that process in our next topic – “SMART rules and reward goals.” 

For all future meetings, one final step – at the beginning of each meeting and before moving into the activity reviews, you have a compulsory “check-in” session where all team members share stories about what they did during the last weekend? 

This takes the degree of team connectedness to the next level and softens the relationships from being “all business, all the time.”

Do you recall our 3 whys for delegating – sharing the workload to satisfy your stakeholders, providing opportunities for team development and growth, plus freeing you up to focus on the tasks you need to do as a leader! 

In addition to achieving these goals, can you envisage the power of what you have unlocked through this final step in the process?

By allowing each generation to work on something they are passionate about, rather than only working on those activities delegated to them, you empower your people and create a sense of contribution, perhaps even unlocking untapped potential. 

By keeping the activities visible to the whole group, you ensure transparency, accountability, and engagement, even a sharing of learnings. This, in turn, should minimize conflict or, at worst, bring issues to the surface quickly so they can be openly discussed and resolved. 

So, who would have thought that this simple act of delegation could bring so many real team benefits?

Well, were making great progress. Hopefully, as we conclude each topic, you find an opportunity to practice what has been discussed. 

You should already start to see some fairly dramatic changes in your teams’ engagement and performance if you have been.

Our next video introduces us to the Virtual Gaming world as we tap into the secrets behind its popularity and apply this to our more traditional approach of managing by objectives. 

The title is “SMART rules and reward goals” – as always, we are looking forward to having you join us. Bye for now.