Empower Future Leaders by Delegating Responsibility
RBLP Staff – Building and Leading Resilient Teams Series
Your team is an organic, ever-changing group. To flourish, the team needs new leaders to rise from within the ranks. The savvy team leader identifies future leaders by finding out how much they can handle, and how they respond to responsibility.
As the leader, you must acknowledge the present and the future simultaneously if you and your charges are to become a powerful unit. In the present, you have your list of tasks that are designed to lead to a successful project conclusion. Looking to the future, you must constantly ask: Who has the leadership skills to take on more responsibility during this project?
Delegating responsibility, and then monitoring the person’s progress without interfering, is the foundation for this present/past strategy. When you delegate to one of your direct reports, you offer them the opportunity to find a greater sense of purpose in their work. When done thoughtfully in the spirit of identifying future leaders, you will build loyalty to the team and the organization. Team members will clamor for greater responsibility. But delegation must be done with care and your own sense of purpose.
Consider Belinda’s process for identifying future leaders through delegation. She carefully appraises her team members, testing them on a regular basis with small tasks to gauge their desire to contribute more. When she identifies leadership candidates at this level, she chooses a critical task, then delegates it. Her style is to let the candidate know she will be there to guide them, offering tips as requested. But the responsibility for executing the assignment is theirs and theirs alone. She is often surprised to see her budding leaders come up with new and better ways to carry out the task. Later, when the task has been accomplished, she reviews the process with the candidate and offers candid feedback designed to prepare them for another task.
Belinda’s team members are eager to be selected for delegation. As she sheds one task after another, she is available for her superiors to delegate to her. Everyone wins on a professional and personal level.
Eldon, on the other hand, knows delegation is part of his job as a manager. But he’s insecure in his job. The hand-off is lukewarm: Here’s something I’d like you to do, but it needs to be done right the first time. And I want you to do it the way we have always done it. Eldon constantly hovers over his candidate, second-guessing, and meddling. Eldon is thinking more about how the outcome of the delegation will reflect on his reputation within the organization rather than whether he is creating new leaders from within his team.
When Eldon looks for folks to delegate to, most of them beg off. His responsibilities never change, and his own professional growth is stunted. His team members lack engagement in their work, and turnover constantly sets the team back.
Remember, when you delegate, set the person up for success. Tell them you understand this is new terrain and that it will take time to understand how best to perform the task. Make sure you are available for consultation and fight the urge to say, “I would do it this way.” Instead, say, “We’ve done it this way in the past. But let’s see how your way works.”
It’s essential to objectively appraise the candidate’s performance and to share your feedback–both positive and negative–with candor and respect. Not everyone you delegate responsibility to will become the next leader. But for you, identifying the upcoming leaders on our team is a high priority–for your team, for the organization, and for the person to whom you delegate.