Learning how to delegate is one of the most important tools a leaders can have. Realizing that you cannot do everything alone and that another set of eyes might be more helpful can be a game changer. In this blog, we will look at two stories of how delegation has worked for Chloe Drew and Russell Sy.
Case Study #1: Hire people you can delegate to
Chloe Drew wasn’t always good at delegation. Having worked on political campaigns where resources were hard to come by, her instinct was always to do everything herself. But now, as the executive director of a growing non-profit organization, she’s come to appreciate how much she must rely on others to get work done. “I can’t be integral to everything we do. I need to be replaceable,” she says.
When hiring, Chloe specifically looks for people who are ready to take ownership from their first day on the job. “I’m trying to create a team of mini-entrepreneurs,” she says. Chloe recently asked a new hire, who has deep experience with learning and development programs in financial services, to run her organization’s leadership institute. “She’s responsible for building it as if it were a separate business,” Chloe explains. “I still want to be in the loop because I have to answer to the board on the project, but I trust her to run with it.” Although delegation didn’t come to Chloe naturally, she has learned to let go. “It’s better for the health of the organization if I don’t swoop in and try to prevent mistakes,” she says. That’s the only way she can get what she needs from her team members, including her newest employee. “I hired her for her skills and expertise. And that increases my chances of delegating with ease,” she explains.
Case Study #2: Make it a win-win-win
Russell Sy, a managing director at a company that develops and manages business parks in the United Arab Emirates, learned how to delegate effectively from watching others. “I am fortunate to have a top-notch direct supervisor,” he says. “Constantly observing her delegate, motivate, and manage for results has taught me a lot.” But, like most managers, Russell has had both positive and negative experiences with delegation.
In a previous role, he was assigned to lead a newly formed division. The CEO had combined five separate functions and asked Russell to ensure the integration went smoothly and saved the company money. Right off, he met with the five department heads to brainstorm how they would meet the CEO’s mandate. He delegated several projects to each leader. Within a few weeks, he saw that one of the departments was falling behind and quickly assessed that the department head was the obstacle. The leader was unhappy with the integration and thought it diminished his power, so he refused to cooperate. Eventually, Russell had to replace him. “I learned from this failure that it is important to delegate to someone who is genuinely on board,” he says.
Now Russell looks for delegation opportunities that will benefit him, the direct report, and the organization. For example, when his company’s parent group recently asked for a review of the business, he asked a new hire to prepare the information packet because he felt it was a great way to orient the employee. Also, “having a fresh pair of eyes look at our business uncovered a few blind spots,” he says. Russell realizes trusting a newcomer with such an important task was perhaps a gamble. But he felt the risk could be mitigated by “instructions, open lines of communication for questions and comments, and regular checkpoints.”