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How to delegate better to create bandwidth?

One of the common rants I hear when people want to move up in their career into strategic roles is

'I don't have bandwidth to do strategic thinking'.

It almost seems that "operations" seem to eat their time up that they don't have any left to do work for their growth.

The discussion for obvious reasons explores delegation and their effectiveness in delegation. What comes through is this - the delegation is not effective because the output expected never turns up when they delegate and they almost end up working on top of their team's work.

How do you release bandwidth through delegation?

There are several models that explain delegation. The situational leadership model of delegation is quite widely used. Also is the Eisenhower matrix for time management.

However there are some subtle points that are pre-supposed in any model. This article is about pre-suppositions and also a left-brain & right-brain approach to understand them.

Left-Brain View

When we ask someone do a task, there are two things we need to consciously check:

  • Capability - Do they have the required ability / skills to do the job?

  • Willingness - Are they willing to do the job?

Most of the times, when someone is a manager, they assume that the team has both - capability & willingness. It may not always be true.

So in your observation & experience, if someone falls short on capability, ensure they are trained / mentored in a way that they know how to do the job effectively.

If they fall short in willingness, coach them to your best ability and if things don't work out, help them find a role that maps to their strengths and career aspirations.

Right-Brain View

  1. Attention

“Positive attention is thirty times more powerful than negative attention in creating high performance on a team. People don’t need feedback. 
They need attention, and, moreover, attention to what they do the best. And they become more engaged and therefore more productive when we give it to them.” 
 ~ Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall, Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World 

Many of my clients say they always give feedback to the person when they delegate. That's a great start.

What will add more value is to pay attention - to what they do best.

They also need help to what they don't do so well. Without paying attention, giving feedback makes people feel cold and like machines.

If you are living in your head and you hardly pay attention to what is happening to people in your team, delegation has a higher probability of failing.

2. Presence

“Being aware of yourself 
and how you affect everyone 
around you is what distinguishes a superior leader.” 
 ~ Cindy Miller, with Edie Seashore, in Sally Helgesen’s “Masters of the Breakthrough Moment,” strategy + business 

There are 2 aspects to leadership - who you are and what you do.

When they are in alignment, there is a strong presence that people sense around you.

How your presence inspires people or affects them is a key skill you need to build your awareness on.

When you delegate, people need to be inspired to do the work for you. They need to believe in you, your vision and action. Without these, the delegation process is highly transactional and it seldom works.

3. A kind word & a thoughtful gesture

The two most 
powerful things in life 
are a kind word, a 
thoughtful gesture.” 
~ Ken Langone, cofounder, Home Depot 

The two things that never go out of fashion with people are - kind words and thoughtful gesture.

Attention & presence are pre-requisites to do both.

Apart from viewing people as resources to complete a job, view them as "Human beings" and be a "humane" leader to them. Offer them your presence, your silence, your attention, your words and actions.

4. Asking more & tell/assume less

Asking questions is one of the best ways to grow as a human being ~ Michael Hyatt

When in doubt - do ask. Don't assume.

  • What can better their productivity and outcome?

  • What is the one thing you can change to better their output?

Let not the team productivity questions be just in your head. The solution found by the collective (with each individual contribution) will always be much better than the solution you find just in your head.

5. Being Vulnerable

I regard apologizing as the most magical, healing, restorative gesture human beings can make. It is the centerpiece of my work with executives who want to get better.” 
~ Marshall Goldsmith,#1 exec coach,

Being vulnerable is to know & show that you don't have to have all answers and you need not be perfect. Acknowledgement of this would help you delegate better because you allow others see your imperfections.

Don't be afraid to apologise if your strategy didn't work.

Be open to receiving.

Be willing to receive support, help & understanding.

What works for you to delegate better? What creates bandwidth for you?

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