Most leadership articles I come across talk about why delegating helps the leader “become free to focus on higher-value activities and use their time more productively” from the Eagle’s Flight blog.
I have a different view of why delegation is important, I think it helps other people sharpen their skills, helps you over-deliver on your project list, and brings a team together.
Reason 1: Helps other people sharpen their skills and frees up your time
Why is this important? Have you ever made a pie or cupcakes from scratch? Think of all the steps:
Create the crust from flour, butter, salt and water. Roll it out, perhaps make the strips for the top crust. Mix up the filling, if it’s an apple pie, peel the apples, measure out the flour, cinnamon, sugar, salt, mix together and pour in the crust-lined pan. Then, basket-weave the top strips of crust over the filling, crimp around the edges and cover with foil or a pie-crust tin. Finally, bake it at 400 degrees, without burning it, and be sure to put a pan underneath it, because those apples get hot and ooze out all over the crust.
I’ve baked a lot of pies, and I’ve taught my oldest son all my secrets, how to use a marble rolling pin (thanks, Dad!) so the butter doesn’t melt when you roll it out. How to uniformly slice the apples, and get them well-tossed before putting them in the crust, and how to weave the top of the pie crust. And while I was having him make the pie so I could fuss with the turkey, that delegation paid off for both of us! He has become a chef-in-training, and this past Thanksgiving, he made over 200 pies for his restaurant, all of which turned out fabulous. He learned an important skill and now can teach others.
How does this help you at work? Do you have anyone you can delegate to? Perhaps it’s a co-worker who’s trying to learn a few new things or even get exposure to new stakeholders in the team. Contract this idea with your line manager first, then mention it to your co-worker, if she’s game, then go for it! It will be a win-win for everyone.
Reason 2: Helps you over-deliver on your own list of tasks
When I was letting him help me in the kitchen all those years ago, I had no idea how the skills I was “delegating” were going to lend themselves to his development, but I knew it was going to help me get the turkey on the table while the mashed potatoes were still steaming! Sometimes, we have no vision of how what we’re asking someone to do will help shape their lives, that is the beauty of delegation, it helps other people grow, too.
How does this help you at work? Once you have enlisted help from your co-worker, this opens up your list of accomplishments, what else can you now take on? Create your own “I deserve this promotion” campaign and start building your list of accomplishments, including learning how to delegate, managing without authority, and creating an agile project program
Reason 3: Brings a team together
My son was always in the kitchen with me, probably because I had 3 mouths to feed, so I was always in the kitchen:) Even now, I find myself cooking and being creative with new recipes, new ideas, and ways of making food prep fun. I have always had a close relationship with my son, but cooking is an extra special thing that we share, and now he’s giving me tips on how to cook a juicy chicken (mine tend to dry and well-done!) or how to make homemade mayo and how to create a menu for a party. It has really brought us together, when there were times I wondered how to bridge the gap with our communication, cooking really helped us have something in common.
How does this help you at work? The next time you get a big project, whether it be at home or at the office, think about the resources you do have in your life, who could you delegate to? Who’s life might it have a major impact on? Can you trust that it might not be done perfectly, but you can help sharpen someone else’s skills while building your own leadership style? Always looking for the win-win:)
Here’s a quick summary of my own journey using this method:
I wanted to become a Project Manager, I asked around in my department if anyone had any projects I could help them with (I asked my boss first) and I found one manager who needed help with a KPI project. It was boring, numbers are not my thing, it was in an area I knew nothing about. But, I said yes anyway. And I enlisted help from those around me who did understand metrics, best practices in measurement, and how to visualize. Once I delivered this project, a few months later, an opening for a Project Manager came my way, I did a panel interview (and I practiced answering all the questions with another colleague) super nervous, but prepared and I got the job! It was a huge step up for me then, and when I remember how much it took to get there, it’s overwhelming. I just took it one step at a time, I asked for help, I was vulnerable, I tried things, they didn’t always work out, but I never gave up.
Keep going! It’s worth it:) And if you have a story where you’ve tried something new or hard and you succeeded or failed, I’d love to hear about it! Perhaps one day I’ll have a podcast and I feature stories like this.