“I really can’t delegate this. They can’t do it as well as I can. Since I have to fix whatever they do, it’s faster if I do it myself.”
“I am so busy.”
This is a pernicious trap that keeps us away from the business-building, strategic work that is the leader’s mandate.
Chances are very high that, yes, they can do it as well or better than we can. Our job as leaders includes spending time clearly specifying what makes up the desired end results and training them how to deliver those results.
Try this. For any delegated work that your colleague has not yet mastered,
- Describe the end result. Say how you’ll know that the work has been done well.
- Together, pick the first logical bit of work and by when it should done. Schedule a time to review the work together. Remind them to come back to you sooner if they get stuck.
- When they return with the work (or with a problem they are stuck on), coach them, if necessary, to improve the work they’ve done. Then pick the next chunk of work to complete and by when it should be done.
- In these coaching sessions, be kind. And be clear about any deficiencies in the work. Take time to understand their perspectives, assumptions, and reasoning so that you can correct more mistakes at the source. Remember to criticize the work compared to the standard you set out. Do not criticize the person.
- These review and coaching meeting should be relatively short. Keep cycling through these review meetings until they meet the desired end result.
Next time, your colleague will be that much closer to mastery. And soon, their learning will accelerate exponentially as they build upon their growing knowledge and confidence. Over time, we will need to train less and less.
Yes, this takes longer than doing the work ourselves. We may think we don’t have the time. What we really don’t have the time for is further delaying work on our leadership mandate. And further delaying our colleagues’ growth.
Investments in quality and training always pay off handsomely.
In your corner,
PS: Even under a deadline, take time for training. We would do better to renegotiate a deadline than to do the work ourselves.