When I first entered the work world, (pre-computer days) if my boss had ten things to do; he delegated 6 and did 4 himself. As the recipient of some of those tasks, my concept of delegation was task oriented. Go see so and so, create this report, and do this or that. Who did what or better yet, who “got” to do what. From my limited perspective, I thought delegating meant distribution of work.
Over the years my perception of delegation has changed as I’ve grown. I’ve found that the bosses that have helped (yes, sometimes forced) me grow the most almost have never given me “tasks”. Instead, they gave me a goal, a direction, or a challenge (“opportunity”) to solve. They delegated what needed to be accomplished and let me figure out the tasks to accomplish the goal. As my boss, they had delegated something far more scarier than a task. They had delegated objectives (goals). My delegation plate, which started out filled with tasks, morphed into a mix of tasks and objectives.
While the ratio of tasks to objectives has changed over the years the one thing I’ve learned, as a leader, true delegation is about setting up the team with an objective/goal, direction to achieve, and letting them own it. Healthy teams own their decisions and outcomes. I read a John Maxwell book on leadership a long time ago and he had something like 20 laws of leadership. One of them I remember was “The Law of the Lid”. That the team would only grow as tall as the lid placed on them. By placing only tasks in front of the team, it will never grow past the boss. Hence, they will be stunted in due time. But as the boss you’re job is to let your team grow by gradually changing the mix of their delegation plate.
While tasks are much easier to delegate than objectives, as one person, you can only really drive so many things; a subset of all the things that must be done for a healthy company. As a leader you can stretch yourself by delegating objectives rather than tasks. You’ll grow as will your team. Here’s the kicker, I promise you it will NOT be easy. Growth never is. But where’s the fun if it was all easy? Think about it.