Pursue What Matters
Episode 210: 3 Delegation Errors
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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Delegation is one of the most important skills to success at work. But the truth is many of us are pretty lousy at this critical skill. Join me today to learn of three common delegation errors and what to do about them.
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So last week, we started talking about delegation, and we talked about how to delegate that how the failure to delegate can lead to three big failures not only for you, as a leader, but for your team members and for your organization in the marketplace. So if you haven’t had a chance to tune in to last week’s episode, definitely go back and listen to it because I think it helps to set a good foundation for what we’re going to talk about today, which is three common errors of delegation and what to do about them. So we’re really focused on problem solving today. Every week with the podcast, my goal is to help you pursue what matters by strengthening your confidence to lead in one of three areas leading with clarity, curiosity, and leading a community. And so today with delegation, we really hit on all three. So we’ve got to have a clear connection to purpose, that helps us to delegate even when it’s hard, and we have to have some good curiosity and self awareness to understand what gets in the way for us. And we must be invested in building the team.
One of the most important and effective ways that we build a team is through effective delegation. And so when it comes to delegation, there are two big problems. First of all, people just don’t delegate. And that’s really what we talked about last week, or they delegate effectively. And so today, we’re going to talk about those three common delegation errors and what to do about them. So I’m just going to name the three errors first, and then we’re going to do a deep dive into each one. The first delegation error is the drop and run. So we drop a task assignment on team members and that runaway never to be heard from again. The second error is, let’s see is micromanagement so if it’s kind of the idea, if you want something done, right, you better do it yourself. And of course, this is disastrous for our organizations. And then delegation. error number three, is related to process management. And so we don’t really know who owns process management, and why. So there’s a lack of clarity, there’s sometimes chaos when it comes to process management, is there a clear understanding of task ownership and so there can be a failure to clearly outline the authority and accountability on a task. And of course, this can be a real problem for your teams. Okay, so now let’s do a deep dive into each of these delegation errors and what to do about them. So they’re common, so don’t go beating up on yourself, if you recognize a pattern for yourself, these are common delegation error. So again, let’s start with number one, which is the drop and run. So you drop a task assignment on a team members, and then run away never to be heard from again. So in this situation, we fail to provide the guidance needed for team members to be successful. Some of the core issues of the drop and run is difficulty embracing your role as a leader, and this can be really challenging for folks. So maybe that difficulty comes from a lack of confidence to provide the guidance needed for team members to succeed. It can also be imposter syndrome. Now, sometimes people think about this lack of confidence, as being the same thing as imposter syndrome. But when it comes to impostor syndrome, it’s not usually a lack of confidence or competence. It’s usually more an issue of adjusting to a new position, or an expanded team. And so I’ve got a podcast on this topic. I will link to it in the show notes.
So if you want to learn a little bit more about impostor syndrome, you can and so those are some of the core issues of the drop, and run. So now let’s take a look at some of the factors that drive the drop and run. So number one is guilt. So the leader may feel guilty about assigning tasks. So there’s a mistaken belief that as a leader, you should do everything. And that right on the surface, that just sounds ridiculous. But a lot of leaders do have that core belief that that factor getting in the way. So this is a mistaken belief. It’s not true. And it’s not helpful. So just think about it, if you as the leader are the linchpin through which all work must pass, you are creating a very inefficient and ineffective organization, you really do hold up the work. And so we want to avoid that as much as possible. Sometimes it can start to even look like the Superwoman, or Superman syndrome, this idea that as a leader, you must be better than everyone else, you come in with your cape to save the day, this belief will keep the organization from growing and succeeding at a higher level. So you know, you know that your team member, so one of the other factors related to the guild, is that, you know, your team members are busy, and so you hesitate to give them more. And so it’s like, you know, you’ve got good feelings towards people, and you know, they’re burdened, and you don’t want to burden them more. So this can be problematic for lots of reasons. But first, you run the risk of treating team members as fragile, right? So this idea of Oh, poor bunnies, I need to protect them from reality. And so what I would say to you, if you are feeling guilt, about delegating, because everyone’s busy, is first assess whether your team legitimately has too much to do, because that could be the case. And if it is the case, you need to know that so you can make some decisions, right? This requires honest conversations about needs, responsibilities, and limits. So it might be that team members have too much to do. But it’s because they’re having a hard time delegating, or because they’re trying to do too much. And so being able to have these honest conversations about what is the work required, right? Like what’s, what is necessary, relative to the role and responsibility that can be really helpful for resetting boundaries and expectations, you also it gives you an opportunity to prioritize the task relative to other responsibilities. And so if you’re delegating something, is it is it one, two or three in terms of priority? Where does it fit relative to their other responsibilities. And so whenever we do delegation, it should never just be a one way conversation, it should always be collaborative. And so you can also give and receive feedback about other commitments, right, so you can do that with task delegation. But so can the individual who’s receiving the task, so the one you’re delegating to? So do you need to adjust the timeline, because you know, it’s not going to be realistic for them to complete it in the next two weeks with the other commitments they have? Do, you need to consider having another team member contribute so that someone has a shared responsibility with another team member who maybe need to delegate to someone else. So maybe the individual you’re trying to delegate to just has a lot going on, whether that is on the work front, or at home, right, so maybe they have a significant illness or a family situation, and they’re just not in a position to be able to be successful on that task. Maybe there’s a pause on the start of the task, while other priorities are managed, or completed. And so again, delegation, the process of delegation should always be collaborative, it should always be two way communication, because it’s hard to effectively delegate if you don’t know what, what your team members are up against, and what they have to contend with. And they’re not going to be very effective on the task if they can’t clearly understand the purpose of the task, and give you feedback on their other constraints. And so that brings us to the next issue related to guilt, and that is to consider constraints and opportunities. And so you know, when it comes to constraint, often, the brick wall that we hit is, hey, we’d really like to hire more, but we can’t, for whatever reason. And so sometimes the truth is you need to hire more. But that’s not always realistic, right? So what are some of the things that we want to pay attention to when it comes to constraints? We want to improve hiring and retention. We want to clarify strategic priorities. We want to focus on what matters most. So are we doing things that really drive growth and drive our services and products? And if the answer is no, then then they should maybe be reconsidered. We want to drop or pause specific priorities until the team is better equipped to carry the load.
So maybe, you know, we’ve got a really exciting strategic initiative, but we just don’t have the team in place to be able to execute against that successfully and so, you know, maybe we push that to, you know, three months or six months down the road once we have another team member on on boarded, so we really do need to pay attention to these things. And then you know, so that’s looking at constraints, and then let’s pay attention to opportunities. So maybe the opportunity is to add to the team to more effectively meet the demands of the marketplace. So we want to identify the needed skills, competencies and roles. And so in that case, we would then prioritize hiring. So sometimes the situation that I see with folks that I work with is that they’re, they desperately need to hire, but they don’t, they don’t feel like they have the time to hire, and they never take the time to really get their hiring in order. And so if you are a team lead, and you know that you need to hire and you’ve been given the clearance to do that, you must prioritize hiring is gotta go to the top of your list so that you can get the help that you need, and you you’re not undermining the effectiveness of your department. So the second factor that drives the drop and run, the first one was guilt, that’s what we just talked about. The second one is passivity. And so this can also help happen for leaders where there is discomfort with being direct. And so how does this show up, we give vague, or unhelpful guidance or little to no guidance on task assignment, there can be a mistaken belief or fear that you are too assertive or even aggressive.
Now, this can really show up with women. You know, there, there’s definitely been, you know, there’s gender bias around some of these issues. And so, you know, often when women are assertive the same way a man would be, they’re accused of being aggressive. And so some women are extra sensitive to this, right, for good reason. But if you’re not careful, it can lead to passivity or discomfort with being direct. And of course, this can happen for men, as well, we just have a bit of a gender bias issue that happens, in particular for women. And so the result is that team members don’t get what they need. And so there are three C’s of delegation that I want to help you understand. And these really need to be in place so that team members can be effective. So the first one is clarity. The second one is contribution. And the third one is collaboration. So clarity, so team members need clarity, and understanding about what is required so that they know how they can be successful, they also need to understand their contribution. So we want team members to understand how they can best contribute to the task and mission. So why don’t you delegate to me, right? What is it about me that you think I can really add to the task, and sometimes it’s, you know, what this just needs to get done. And I know that you can do it, you’re really efficient. Maybe it’s, I need someone with your expertise. And so building a case for why, why you want their contribution, it really builds that connection to purpose and mission, and it helps people turn out higher quality work. And then the third C that team members need is collaboration. And this, you know, I’ve already mentioned this a little bit, but it’s the opportunity to communicate proactively to determine the details of the task and to ensure successful completion of the tasks that takes in all the important perspectives, right. So not everyone has a clear perspective of everything, by virtue of your role in the organization, you’re going to attend to different details than other people. And so collaboration is really important to make sure we are clear on what needs to happen. And so again, those three C’s of delegation, include clarity, contribution and collaboration. And so you need to help provide that to your team members when you delegate. So when it comes to addressing the passivity, and you know, the larger issue of the drop and run, the solution is clear as kind unclear is unkind. Of course, that comes to us from Dr. Brene Brown. We need to be direct about needs and guidance. This is in service to team members and the work. So I want you to pay attention. I’ve talked about this before on the podcast, but it’s very helpful for people. So I hope it will be helpful to hear again, if you have already heard it, but when you’re delegating, provide guidance on the what right, the what of what is the task, what does success look like, but then let team members decide how to execute on that. So I’ll talk a little bit more about that as we move forward. But you want to provide parameters and then invite collaboration within those parameters. You also want to invite invite feedback about the process. So when you’re delegating, asking do you understand your goals here? What does support look like? What what do you need from me? What do you need from the team? Do you have what you need to move forward on this? And so as part of that support, you want to include process checkpoints to ensure alignment. I think this is where having an open door policy is really helpful. So you have this specific checkpoints. But outside of those specific checkpoints, we want you to empower your team members to lead the process and reach out for support as needed. So we’re going to talk about micromanagement in a moment. But right, you don’t want to always be looking over their shoulder. But you don’t want to make sure that they have pretty open access to you with questions, and you do want to provide some support and structure. So I really like the ongoing checkpoints to ensure alignment, and then having that open door policy that they know that they can come to you with questions as those arise. We also want you to encourage proactive communication. So I say this a lot. Err on the side of over communication, when in doubt, err on the side of over communication, simple status updates, build trust, hey, I want to let you know where we’re at on this task that builds so much trust, it helps to build confidence as well. We know that the number one way to build trust at work is by asking for help. So again, back to that idea that open door policy, Hey, I just wanted to check in with you because right, I don’t want to get too far ahead, head on this if it’s not in alignment with your vision for the project. And it’s important to ask for help sooner rather than later. So a great team that I was doing a leadership training with, we were talking about, you know, providing support asking for help. And one of the individuals was, was a department leader. I believe they were engineers. And he said that one of the interview questions that he often asks of a new candidate, right is how long will you work on a problem before reaching out for support? Now, if you are that candidate, you might think like, Okay, well, I’m gonna, I’m really going to work on this, because I want people to know that I’m independent, and that I’m a problem solver, and I’m not afraid of tackling things. And he said that he was always really concerned, if anyone said that they would work on it. More than I think it was, like more than like, two to three hours or something. Because he said, you know, we are a team of engineers, and you’ll definitely come up with problems. And you need to you need to be humble enough, right? To to recognize when you’re stuck, and to reach out for support, and that a recognition, right, that as a team, we can often be more effective, right? And the research certainly supports that, as well. And so I thought that was actually a really great interview question. Are you willing to reach out for help and be proactive in in helping, you know, whatever task you’re given or project be successful by by leveraging the strengths of your team, so I thought that was really great.
Okay, and so we’ve talked about, so we’re still on the drop and running, we’ve talked about some of the factors driving the drop and run. One is guilt. Two is passivity. And third is fear of criticism. And so the the idea here is kind of this fear of like, who am I to be telling others what to do? And my answer to that is, because you’re the assigned leader, that’s who and maybe you’re not the best one in that position, but you are in that position. And so we don’t want you to disown your skills and expertise, due to a fear of judgment. This is often being driven by perfectionism. So maybe you have a history of receiving critical feedback, without the opportunity to really integrate that feedback and learn what you can from it. You might also suffer from the plague of people pleasing. And that can all lead to a fear of criticism. And so you know, very quickly you get to a place of, it’s just easier to do it myself, or, you know, I don’t want people to be critical of what I’m asking of them. And so you can see how that can be super effective pretty darn quickly. And so that is the first delegation error that drop and run. And now let’s move to our delegation error number two, which is micromanagement and again, this is the idea that if you want something done right, do it yourself. So for sure, we have perfectionism driving this, right? We just mentioned perfectionism. This is a major component of micromanagement. So some of the core issues of micromanagement include trust. So when trust is difficult, we often use control as a false substitute for trust. And let’s be clear that micromanagement is just another word for control. or being a control freak? This it’s Is this a you problem? Or is it a team problem? Right? So is this something for your personal and professional leadership development that you really need to tackle? Or is this a team issue? Right? Is this a culture issue? So, you know, I think it can be a mix of both. So first, are you not trusting? And that could be a huge problem, right? Trust is inherently vulnerable. And it can be really difficult to give, especially if you have a difficult history. When it comes to trust, you might have unrelenting or unrealistic expectations. And there might be an unwillingness to communicate your expectations, clearly. And so this is really tough for your team members, because they’re left in a fog, they don’t really have what they need to be helpful. And then the second question, right, so those are all like, it’s, it’s really a huge issue, you need to you need to take responsibility for addressing that. And then the second question is, is your team not trustworthy? And that certainly can be the case, right? Maybe there’s some incompetence happening. Maybe there’s some inattention happening. And so of course, if you know that, those are some of the issues, then again, it points to more structure and more communication, when it comes to delegation. It also points to closing skill gap. So if you have a skill gap and a team member, help them close that gap, you’ll probably need to provide some good direction on that and be willing to do that.
So sometimes when we see incompetence, or inattention, we get really frustrated, and then we pull the project back, and we do it ourselves. But we’ve still left those team members with out an understanding of how they could improve or what needs to happen for them to get that task to a level of expectation that is acceptable. And so you know, don’t just take the task back without doing the training and the education and closing the skills gap. That is a failure of leadership, if that is the case. And so the first core issue of micromanagement is trust, which we’ve just talked about. Another core issue of micromanagement is distrust, distress tolerance, right? So this is for sure. A you problem that says often a result of perfectionism and this idea that there is one right way to do things. We use Control often as a way of managing stress, especially when we have difficulty coping with stress. Over time, this becomes a vicious cycle of first the leader intrudes through micromanaging, so control, perfectionism, critical feedback, redoing the work, etc. So that’s the first part of that cycle. And that leads to team members feeling trusted, frustrated, resentful, or incompetent, right, which is like the worst thing, we don’t want team members feeling incompetent. And then the next step is that that leads to team members losing confidence, and failing to develop the skills that come through taking on new tasks, and thinking critically about how to be most effective. So if there’s a skill gap, that skill gap grows wider, there’s a failure to develop the skills that they need. And then the next step of that vicious cycle is that that leader feels justified in that urge to micromanage because they see that team members are not developing confidence and competence. But here’s the thing, it’s not for the reasons they think so the leader believes it’s because the team members just aren’t competent. So it’s a it’s a team member problem. Whereas the reality is that the team members aren’t confident because their leader doesn’t trust them, their leader doesn’t help them to get the training. And that’s where it’s really a huge problem in terms of the leader. So that can be a painful look in the mirror, but it’s really important to pay attention to. So some of the factors driving micromanagement include difficulty and relinquishing control, right, the solution there is to build trust. And so I’ll just direct you to graving trust which is a really great tool that comes to us from Brene Brown, and you need to give trust to earn trust and braving trust is an acronym. So B is boundaries, R is responsibility. Three is accountability, V is fault. I is integrity, and is non judgment and g is generosity. And I will link to a podcast that I’ve done on braving trust.
So another factor that drives micromanagement are hidden expectations. So we have some expectations that we don’t clearly outline. And so of course, the solution here is to lead effectively by providing clear delegation guidance. I’ve already said a lot about this, but it It’s the leaders responsibilities to provide clear guidance with task assignment and delegate delegation, you need to challenge your perfectionism, you need to ask what’s driving expectations, do not expect your team to read your mind, you will be disappointed every single time. And don’t expect team members to have your same perspective. This is where we think about horizon conflict, which just absolutely happens at work, we have a different perspective by by virtue of our role and responsibilities within the organization. And so we want to respect those differences and collaborate to learn from one another for the most effective solutions. And then we want to challenge the idea that one perspective is more important than another. And so another solution here is to provide a clear, effective process for task assignment and delegation, and then back off. And so I’m gonna do another podcast where I go through this process for task assignment and delegation, I think it can be really helpful for you. In the meantime, I will also link to the podcasts that I’ve done recently on paint done, which is a great delegation tool given to us through the dare to lead research. And that takes us to the third delegation error, which is process management. So who owns process management? And why is there a clear understanding of task ownership. So we really want to organize ourselves here. When we fail to clearly outline authority and accountability, we can really run into trouble. So core issues of process management include inattention, and disorganization. Some of the factors that drive authority and accountability, right. So that help us with this process management. And create problems here include first being in a rush. So skipping ahead of administrative tasks to save time, it will always take longer when you do that, we also have reactivity. So responding to the environment reactively, rather than being intentional about creating and utilizing processes based on organizational values and best practices. So the solution is to determine the accountability chain, assigned task ownership does the individual have the authority to make necessary decisions, and you really want to make sure that you pin that down. And again, I will talk more about that next week on the podcast. Another solution we have here, when it comes to process management is to respect your processes. So our authority and accountability fuzzy not clearly identified, or not respected. So I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this from team members, we have a process for that we just don’t follow it. We we undermine our processes, we kind of get lazy or we get reactive. So if your processes aren’t effective, and that’s the reason you’re not using them, then fix them. Right? Fix them if they don’t work or utilize them, right. But that’s not an excuse to say we have a process, but we don’t follow it, you need to follow the process.
Otherwise, you undermine the entire approach to work. So having processes but not following them is worse than not having processes at all. Because it conveys that established practices, protocols, processes and direction don’t matter. This erodes trust, and it leads to a reactive knee jerk response rather than an intentional well thought out plan. So it’s really, really important. And so today, we talked about three common delegation errors, we talked about the drop and run. So not giving the guidance that you need, that your team members need. We talked about micromanagement which is, you know, having a stranglehold on the work. And the third one is around process management is really about attention and organization of the work so that people can be successful.
So head on over to my website, to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/210-3delegationerrors and that is the number three. On the website. I will have links to some other podcasts that really relate to this including about impostor syndrome, being a control freak breathing trust, so definitely check out those show notes. Again, visit www.drmelissasmith.com/210-3delegationerrors I’d love to connect with you on Instagram @dr.melissasmith I always have additional resources related to the podcast topics and I’d love to get your thoughts and hear your questions. I’d also appreciate it if you took a minute to review the podcasts on Apple or Spotify. It helps me know what what’s resonating on it helps more people find the podcast. In the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
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