Delegation is a win-win-win situation. Your direct reports win, because they gain competency and learn. Your organization wins because it results in higher levels of engagement and productivity. You win because you save time and get credit for building the talent pipeline. This process will also enhance your credibility, which increases your ability to influence others.
When you think about it, delegating to a direct report is a “pay it forward” opportunity. Giving that person the chance to take on a new or different assignment will help him or her develop the skills and experience required for advancement.
Coaching someone on successful approaches to completing a new assignment is also an exercise in leadership. It demonstrates both a willingness to develop your team and that you have staff capable of taking on new challenges. Moreover, delegation can free up the time needed to acquire the skills and experiences necessary to our own advancement.
What’s holding us back? The Leadership Research Institute’s Rob Fazio, says the reasons can vary from feeling that our staff is already overburdened, to believing there’s no one else who can do it or, in a related thought, that it will be easier and faster to do it ourselves rather than train someone else.
Fazio says, “The internal debate that managers face when contemplating delegation is certainly understandable. However, if they delegate correctly, not only will it not feel like they are putting more on someone else’s plate, but the person will be getting what they want most: growth opportunity and gratitude.”
In an article appearing in the May-June issue of MFM’s The Financial Manager magazine, he provides a number of tips on “deliberate delegation,” which he describes as delegation that’s “strategic and intentional, as opposed to reactive and unintentional.”
So how do we become better delegators? Fazio says the place to start is by determining that you and your team member are ready. This requires ensuring that all of the following elements are in place:
- Organizational commitment
- Team capability
- Confidence in self or others
While the absence of one or more of these characteristics may be a reason not to delegate a particular project, identifying the missing element also points out what you need to work on to get to the point where you can delegate projects.
Even when all the elements are there, it’s easy to convince yourself that it’s not the right time; I know, I’ve done it myself. The key is to take the time. If you don’t, as Fazio warns, it “can send a message to your ‘higher ups’ that you are not able to make decisions and you don’t care about the development of your team.” He also points out that team members are likely to conclude that we don’t believe in them. “Both messages quickly contribute to a nosedive in engagement and credibility.”
IDENTIFYING WHAT TO DELEGATE
Another aspect of deciding when to hand over assignments involves determining which projects to delegate. To accomplish that, Fazio recommends rating projects according to these two questions:
- How urgent is this task (low or high)?
- How important is this task (low or high)?
If any assignment gets a “low” answer to both questions, Fazio says it’s our green light to delegate. Situations where we had both yes and no answers to the two questions are likely to require “delegating with supervision, teaching how to get it done or continuing to do it yourself.”
“These questions will help you find opportunities to delegate, while maintaining control of what is too risky at the time,” Fazio says. He also challenges us to not accept an outcome where we don’t assign any “low” answers. “Hold yourself accountable and for every four tasks, find at least one thing you can delegate, which means at least 25% of the time you should find something that isn’t so important and urgent that you ‘have to’ take it on.”
As Fazio observes, delegation creates an opportunity to close gaps in our team’s development. “It is a win-win-win situation. Your direct reports win, because they gain competency and learn. Your organization wins because it results in higher levels of engagement and productivity. You win because you save time and get credit for building the talent pipeline. This process will also enhance your credibility, which increases your ability to influence others.”
Complementing his thoughts on the “when” and “what” to delegate are insights from caching expert Barbara Kurka on the “how” for developing leaders we can entrust with these assignments. Kurka, an executive coach and HR business consultant, previously held HR management posts at a number of industry organizations, including Katz Media, Accenture and the Grey advertising group. She presented a workshop entitled “Manager as Coach” at MFM’s annual conference in May.
In her presentation, Kurka reminded attendees that the “win-win-win” outcome envisioned by Fazio can quickly become a “lose-lose-lose” situation for all involved if we fail to properly manage these talent development opportunities.
Like Fazio, Kurka sees trust as a core element for an effective coach. “Coaching is a relationship based upon trust: you trust they listen and they trust you are listening.”
Kurka’s workshop also brings home how difficult it can be to make the transition from task-oriented management. Too often, one-on-one meetings can involve sharing tips on how we would tackle a particular problem or, if things aren’t going well, outlining the consequences of failure.
But in order to achieve that “win-win-win” outcome, we can’t choose to be either hand-holders or browbeaters. Kurka says an effective coach will not have an agenda going into their one-on-one meetings. Instead, they will engage in conversations focused on “awareness, discovery and choice.”
This process involves a lot of open and inviting questions that demonstrate true curiosity and get at the why behind a team member’s perspective and feelings. It also reinforces their ownership of the role and uses self-awareness to help the other person discover the choices that lead toward accomplishment and advancement.
For time-constrained, task-oriented managers, becoming this type of a coach involves a real commitment of time as well as changing some behaviors and attitudes. It also requires us to re-visit the list Rob Fazio provided and dedicate significant time to a select group of people: the ones who have the right potential and organizational commitment to become effective leaders within our organizations.
MFM’S ‘PEOPLE TO WATCH’ IN 2015
It’s also important to recognize the direct reports, peers or managers who have excelled and are helping media organizations to grow. Because so much of the work done by our industry’s financial managers often goes unrecognized, MFM created a “People to Watch” program that recognizes emerging industry trailblazers whose financial leadership will be instrumental in creating change within the media industry in the coming year. Nominees and/or their nominators do not need to be a member of either MFM or its BCCA subsidiary in order to participate. Nominators are also welcome to submit multiple nominations for the honor.
The deadline for nominations is July 15; a nomination form may be found on our website. I hope you’ll take a minute to nominate deserving individuals your may know, especially if they are someone you have helped grow into their leadership position. After all, recognizing their accomplishments also honors your role as the coach who helped them to become the leaders they are today.
Mary M. Collins is president and CEO of the Media Financial Management Association and its BCCA subsidiary. She can be reached at [email protected]. Her column appears in TVNewsCheck every other week. You can read her earlier columns here.