Author and coach Bill Hawkins

In 20 years of conducting leadership seminars and one-on-one coaching with executives, what would you guess to be the most common complaint I hear?

It sounds something like this:

There’s just so much on my plate. The amount of work that needs to be done can be overwhelming. There are meetings, conference calls, administrative requirements, not to mention routine emergencies that suck up all my time. It seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done.

And what advice does our busy leader get? “You need to delegate more.” 

Surprisingly, the answer for the “not enough hours in the day” boss isn’t to delegate more but to delegate more effectively.

Delegation is not a quality like “demonstrating integrity.” Honest, ethical, and legal behavior is always appropriate―delegation isn’t. Inappropriate or poorly executed delegation can do more harm than good.

Criteria for Delegation

A good place to start is to review the criteria for delegation. Why do it? There are 3 good reasons a leader should delegate work:

  1. To ensure the work is done at an appropriate level (closest to the customer, at the lowest cost, with access to the needed information, etc.).
  2. To free up your time to do other more important activities.
  3. To develop the people on your team.

Ideally, you want to include all 3 criteria. So, how do you know what to delegate and to whom?

Steps to Delegation

Step 1: Every job (no matter if it’s the CEO or the person greeting at the front desk) can be broken down into 3 to 5 major components. There are no exceptions to this rule! Identify the key 3 to 5 areas of your responsibility, and then list several activities you do to achieve success in each of these key areas.

For example, one area of responsibility for a customer service manager might be: Train new customer service representatives.

Activities to support that responsibility might be:

  • Orientation on email and voice mail communication
  • Dealing with angry customers
  • Researching information on shipment and delivery questions
  • Handling quality issues

Step 2: Look at each activity and ask yourself, “Is this developmental for me? Am I building skills that will be useful in the future? Am I learning more about this business or industry? Is this increasing my business acumen, building my skills, and expanding my understanding?” If the answers are all “No,” even if you enjoy doing these activities, it is not necessarily a good use of your time.

Step 3: I can assure you there are people on your team who think your job is more interesting than theirs. Some would like to have more responsibility, earn a larger raise, or maybe get a promotion. Is there anyone on your team you could delegate all or some of these tasks to and it would be very developmental for them? If so, this is an appropriate opportunity to delegate work.

No Dumping Allowed

Step 4: There is a difference between delegating and dumping work on people. Effective delegation requires orientation to the new assignment. To the person assuming the new responsibilities:   

  1. Communicate why he or she has been selected for this assignment.   
  2. Discuss how much time it will take and how to structure their schedule so there is time available for this additional work.
  3. Make sure they have access to needed information or know where to find it.
  4. Confirm that they feel like they have the authority to do the job.

If you follow these simple steps, you’ll free up time for yourself and you’re also engaging and developing people on your team.

That is a Win / Win.  And that is effective delegation.   

THE FUTURE LEADERS THAT ALREADY WORK FOR YOU

Every year, organizations invest untold amounts of money in the relentless search for executive talent. Recruitment is big business, and many will tell you reams of tricks and tips for hiring top talent, but what if the talent already works for you? Your current employees already have the business knowledge, organizational wayfinding and corporate culture to hit the ground running for you, so why are they being overlooked? Because they sometimes don’t fit the standard experience of executive presence. Often times, they are women, minorities and introverts that don’t get the consideration they deserve.

In my corporate program, “The Invisible Leaders: How to Find Them and Let Them Shine,” I show how companies can uncover the hidden leaders in their organizations and gain a competitive advantage by leveraging high-value, underrepresented talent. Promoting from within saves time, money and recruiting costs while improving employee retention.

Start helping your hidden leaders develop their executive presence by focusing on the 3 most common traits they lack.

Confidence

  • In my trainings, I often help participants break down the components of what CEOs and senior executives say when they refer to “executive presence.” One consistent element we identify, time and again, is confidence. Leadership hopefuls are expected to speak with poise and conviction, and a self-assuredness that feels genuine and natural. Your hidden talent likely has every reason to possess such confidence but may have trouble expressing themselves with the gravitas expected. This could stem from culture, upbringing, or a quieter, more introspective nature. Make sure they get the coaching they need to think, speak and act with conviction, and they will soon be closer to the executive track.

Authority

  • Your hidden talent may also need a boost in demonstrating assertiveness and persuasive communication. Top leadership is drawn to those with strong communication skills and the ability to be prepared, concise and convincing. Ensure your untapped potential leaders are given the training and the opportunity to master these skills and deliver with conviction, even when questioned. People are sometimes uncomfortable when challenged by authority figures and may have been taught that is always better to defer to superiors, even when they are incorrect. Offer your potentials the tools to build on their own ways to be respectfully assertive and to speak with conviction.

Reputation

  • Many individuals working for you have already done a great deal of excellent, attention-worthy work, but no one knows about it! Many of us have been taught to avoid boasting and cockiness at all costs, and that understating your accomplishments is far preferable to being seen as a loudmouth or a braggart. Many are uncomfortable with the idea of self-promotion and hope that their work will speak for itself. Your hidden talent will benefit both from workshops and training on respectful and positive ways to take credit for accomplishments, as well as a good deal of advocacy and reputation building you can do on their behalf. Make sure senior management knows of all the great work they’ve done to date.

If you supply the training and tools for building confidence, demonstrating convincing communication, and strengthening reputation, many otherwise overlooked individuals can assimilate executive presence into their existing competencies. Just because they don’t fit the expected characteristics out of the gate doesn’t mean they can’t develop elements of executive presence within their own style and personality. With coaching and guidance from you, your hidden talent can become shining stars of the organization.

About the author

Joel Garfinkle is a sought-after speaker and corporate trainer that has delivered more than 1000 workshops, speeches and keynote addresses. He is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S., having worked with many of the world’s leading companies, including Oracle, Google, Amazon, Deloitte, The Ritz-Carlton, and Starbucks. He is the author of 7 books and over 300+ articles on leadership.

Joel Garfinkle will be teaching four programs for IMS in 2019. He is at IMS Los Angeles in June. In August he will be in Chicago, St. Louis and Houston.