Successful leaders understand that they cannot do everything themselves. To lead their team or company forward, they need to learn to rely on their people. It sounds easy, although in reality, letting go of something you are renown for doing and do so well, in fact probably better than anyone else - can be difficult. Right?
Systems psychologist David Kantor refers to delegation in his book, ‘Reading the Room: Group Dynamics for Coaches and Leaders’ as something to be mastered – an art rather than a process. There is a fine line between delegation, throwing work at people, and micromanaging them. The art is finding the balance in between.
How to Delegate to Individuals
If you give someone a task and then tell them exactly how to do it, you are stifling that person’s creativity and chance for learning. Instead, you need to tell them what your expectations are. Explain what time constraints they are working with, what resources they have available to them, and what you expect the end result should be. How they get there is then up to them. Being a leader means still being there for the person, being open for questions and ensuring there are check points in place so you can redirect them if required. Delegation is not a hands-off process. Think of it more as over-seeing rather than over-managing. You are empowering the person to grow, learn, achieve and show what they can do, while also freeing up your own time and still getting the task completed to a high standard.
Delegating to Teams
Learning how to read a room is incredibly difficult; getting a sense of how people relate to each other and using it to accomplish goals is no mean feat. David Kantor’s writing and teaching encourages us to know how to read the hidden patterns of conversation and action. So, what does this mean for delegation?
When you delegate to whole teams rather than individuals, the team dynamics are integral to the success of the project. A leader who can walk into a tense team meeting and walk out having got everyone back on track, and happy that their point has been heard, likely has the skills of a ‘room reader’. By tapping into the ‘structural dynamics’, David Kantor explains how a leader can create better performing teams.
“In any situation, unseen, unspoken connections among people influence everything that happens. Leaders are typically not aware of these connections, and they can’t be, unless the right conceptual lens is available. […] People behave differently under extreme conditions; there are breakdowns in communications, and things can move forward only if people can overcome those breakdowns. The decisions you make under that pressure are what define you as a leader.”
A leader needs to bridge the gap between team members’ reactions and individual needs, and the strategic outcome that the company requires. A leader choosing to do everything themselves is not going to work, they need to read the situation, and present what needs to be done in the correct way to each individual. That is the masterful art of delegation.
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