Do you delegate or command?

Happy 2017! Remember, you get more of what you focus on so, if you’ve been commiserating with others about how awful 2016 was, STOP IT! Otherwise you are well on the way to a repeat performance in the New Year. Let’s instead focus on how we can leverage the clean slate that is handed to us every January 1st by the Gregorian calendar.

commands-by-megaphone-fotolia_99177515_xsSpeaking of clean slates, why not use yours to improve employee engagement in your organization by getting better at delegating? I’ll be focusing on the topic of delegation for a while in my blogs because my new book on the subject is nearly complete and will be launched sometime during the next month. I have much to share.

Why did I choose to spend so much time doing a deep dive into delegation?

In my work with teams over the years it has become abundantly clear that most people in leadership—executives, managers, supervisors, project managers, team leads, even parents!—are confused about how to delegate well.

Our early models for delegation were our parents and it’s a pretty safe bet that, at least at the beginning of your ascension into leadership, you relied on their examples to “be the boss.” As you ponder that assertion, do you find it to be true?

All parents are different so I’m not going to assume that yours were like mine but the model I grew up with was, “Do as I say and RIGHT NOW.” There was no discussion, no opportunity for clarifying questions; it was a time to jump into action or face the consequences.

Maybe your parents were great at giving orders but not so great at follow up to make sure it was done. Or perhaps you grew up with indulgent parents who didn’t ask you to do much. Instead, they did it for you.

It’s important to know whether your current style of delegation is working well. Does your team deliver on time and as you requested? Or are there too many “do-overs?” Are you in clean up mode more than is comfortable? Are you doing more of the work than your team?

A first step in delegating well is to stop giving directions. Stop telling your team HOW to complete tasks. If they already know how, it’s insulting. If they don’t, it’s important for you to find that out. Here is a quick delegation process for you to experiment with this week:

“This is the (measurable) result I’m looking for.

I need it by __________.

How do you think we should do it?”

I call this method Socratic Delegation after the Greek philosopher. Socrates did not teach his students in the traditional way, by lecturing. Instead, he asked them questions, inspiring them to think and come up with their own ideas.

We will dive deeper into Socratic Delegation in future blogs. For now, I encourage you to try the technique outlined above at work and/or at home with your children. See what happens. Notice what you learn. Were ideas identified that wouldn’t have surfaced if you’d simply told them how to do it? Did things get done correctly the first time?

Please let me know what happens or if you have questions:

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