One of the most evident realities of today’s working environment is the dependence on teamwork and collaboration. Until not so long ago, each manual worker had a role to perform, and the few who worked alone did not need to involve anyone else in their trade.
In the current knowledge economy, we work as highly specialized teams, where it is impossible for any one person to operate alone, neither in capabilities and performance, nor in functioning effectively under the stresses of the job. Relying on others is an essential part of managing ourselves and delegation is one of the key skills we need to learn.
As women, we can sometimes have a harder time of doing so because we tend to be perfectionists. Early on in our careers, this does not pose much of a problem. We have time and our tasks are limited. However, as we ascend the professional ladder, time becomes our most valuable resource and the necessity of supervising others requires us to let go of some of our standards. The good news is that it is a small price to pay for what we get in return.
What we get in return is staff who stretch themselves, learn and grow and yes, sometimes fail. But in the process they often surprise us with their rising capabilities. Taking on all the responsibility all the time only leads to an underdeveloped workforce, whose inferior work gets piled onto our workload and leads to our own stress and burnout. Human excellence is a result of collaboration and the more we rely on it, the greater the overall output.
What we also get in return is time and energy to pursue what is important, instead of being wound up in needless micro management. By cultivating the perspective of what calls our attention and what can be safely delegated, we can focus on the essential, initiate new goals and take a long-term view of success, thus furthering our professional advancement.
The famous 80/20 reminds us that 20% of our activities produce 80% of the results. How do we delegate the remaining 80% to those who would benefit from the challenge while still producing good enough results?
Know Your Staff’s Strengths
Most managers do not know what each individual staff is good at. In today’s economy, where employees are looking for engagement and meaning at work, this is essential knowledge. Research shows that using our strengths at work leads to greater engagement, performance and fulfillment. By knowing our employees strengths, we are able to delegate work that utilizes individual strengths and leads to a win-win situation for all.
Set Clear Expectations
When we work towards a certain outcome, our brains continuously contrast our current state against the goals we have set ourselves. In this manner, we are able to up our efforts as needed, change strategies or revise plans. However, when our goals are not clear, we are unable to do any of the above. When delegating work, we need to be clear on the outcomes expected, so that we empower our employees to monitor their progress and take appropriate steps to completion. Clarity on goals also makes it easy to reward performance.
Give Them Choice
Everyone has their own preferred style of performance – and it is closely related to their personality. Some people work best in the company of others, others like to work alone. Some need the structure of large organizations, others prefer the free flow of small groups. There are also other factors to be taken into account. Mothers often need more flexibility to be around kids when they fall ill or are on school vacation. A manager who can be empathic to employee needs and performance styles, and provide them with greater choice in the steps to well-defined goals, allows them to fulfill the motivational pillar of autonomy and thus rise to optimal performance.
Provide Regular Feedback
Regular feedback is essential for growth. And our employee’s growth is key to our own. The better our employees become, the more they free up our time to advance the organization’s interests. We need to build time into our calendar to review what they do on a regular basis, so we can catch problems early, offer suggestions and prevent them from going down blind alleyways. Research in positive organizational psychology also shows that feedback that is based on an employee’s strengths is far more effective than one based on weaknesses. Active Constructive Responding (ACR) is one way to ensure that we are able to take the good performance of our employees towards excellence.
Deliver Sincere Recognition
Being noticed and appreciated is a basic human need. However, we can often overlook this very important element of building relationships and trust. Certain cultures are adverse to delivering praise, believing that it leads to lowered performance or seeing it as a sign of weak leadership. Certain individuals struggle with appreciation too, wanting to grab all the kudos for themselves. However, at work and in life, it is crucial to recognize that being open and sincere with praise not only builds the other person’s confidence, it also strengthens your relationships with them, and makes them loyal and motivated to perform even better.
Sometimes it may feel irresponsible to let go of tasks you know how to do perfectly. But in the best interests of all parties – you, your employees and the organization you work for, it is important to remind yourself that being responsible at work isn’t about getting everything done. It’s about getting the right things done.