There is a method to delegation that can help a manager get the desired outcomes, and get much more fulfillment and value than taking over and controlling all the work.
Most of the work managers assign to their teams are things that they have done in the past throughout their career. This is why it is very tempting for a manager to immediately get into the details and tell the team step by step what to do and what the outcome should look like exactly. However, if one does that, it might make the job easier for the team, but it takes away their creativity and misses you a chance to get better results from the team than if you did the job yourself.
The question is: do you want your team to be “extra pairs of hands” to get a job done, or you want more of their brains and creativity to be in on the process? When a manager delegates properly and allows the team room to do the work the way they see fit, Managers are often pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
There are lots of books out there and articles about how to delegate properly. There are a couple of points I have from experience that I would like to share here.
First of all, I try to stay at the business level with my description of the outcomes, not on the technical details. For example, I would describe an outcome as ” Professional, customized to customer needs, meets both customer needs and expectations, and that gives me raving reviews from client.” I do not like to get into add this document, or add this section, or add a column to the table, etc. Ask them to come to you with a plan and a proposal of what they want to do. If they draw blank and do not give you what you expected. Do not give up. Get into a bit more detail, a bit more direction. Then let them try again. And so on. Make the iterations short with clear feedback, until you feel comfortable with the direction the team members are going, then you can reduce the control.
There is a difference between delegating to seniors versus juniors. Seniors you have to be very sensitive not to limit their creativity. You need to leave them ample room to do the work. I would allow them more room to do what they feel is necessary. Only interfere when it is clear they are heading in the wrong direction. Again, keep your input at the business level. Provide support and resources but let it be their plan and their way of doing things. Now, if it is absolutely necessary that you interfere at the detail level, then this has to be temporary until the senior can take on his or her responsibilities. With juniors it is a bit different. You can be more directive if you have to, and you might not give them as much time to experiment as you would the seniors. They need more help seeing the big picture than seniors.
Another important point to ponder. If you are too afraid that the team member will not do the job, most probably they will not do the job. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy; you are too afraid, you spook the team member working for you, and he panics. In panic mode, there is a tendency to run away and hide than owning the task and excelling at it. To help you an your team members relax, cut the time alloted for the work in half and keep half of it as a buffer and try to have the team member finish in half the time. This leaves room for improvements. Tell the team member that you kept a buffer so he does not have to panic close to the deadline. Most will understand and respect that. They will even feel more relaxed that they are not held to the wire.
Be prepared psychologically that the team member will make mistakes. Tell them so. Do not put too much pressure on them by telling them what we will lose if they mess up. Instead help them look at the positive side. Help them see the learning they will get from the experience, and the opportunity the company will get from the accomplished work. If the team members are afraid to make a mistake. they will do the minimum work avoid criticism from you.
Do not rush into telling team members to change something they did, when you review their work. Ask why they did it that way. They might have a point that you missed. Ask team members to take chances to do things differently if there is a better way. This is your chance to get improvements to the old way of doing things.
One final piece of advice: Do not let your ego ruin your delegation. If you delegate hoping your team will fail to prove that you are too good for them to follow in your footsteps, then your ego got the best of you. Even if it is satisfying on the short term, but on the long term you are refusing yourself and your team a chance to grow.
Sometimes I delegate and I am unpleasantly surprised. It happens to all of us. Do not let the unpleasant surprises make you lose faith in delegation and your team. It is your only way out of having to do the same thing forever. If you are to move to bigger and better things, you need to help your subordinates to take over your current responsibilities. There is a mission in helping others grow and there is a mission in trying to do more and better things. Delegation helps you achieve both.