As I am packing up my daughter’s bags for her first overnight camp experience—a significant rite of passage for her—I am reminded of the first time I had to delegate a work project. Just as it is hard to put the care of your child in the hands of others, it can feel difficult to give up control at work. The key to success in either scenario is a lot of forethought and preparation.
Plan ahead. Rather than wait until the last minute, I printed out the camp packing list weeks in advance to understand what, if anything, I needed to buy. When delegating a project, time is also a critical factor. You’ll want enough time to engage and prepare your team so they have a full understanding of the project deliverables and deadlines.
Set expectations. My daughter had to read through and sign paperwork agreeing to abide by the camp rules. Similarly, when putting others in charge, you need to be very clear what you expect from each team member as far as their roles and responsibilities. Also, be sure to clearly define the measures of success and anticipated outcomes.
Empower others. The only way you can successfully turn over the reigns is to step back and cede control through empowerment. I have explained to my daughter that while I’d love to hear she showered and made her bed daily, I realize she is in charge and will make her own decisions. In a work environment, teams can become paralyzed if they feel they aren’t empowered as decision-makers. Knowing they have your trust, your colleagues will be able to move the project forward more smoothly and efficiently with better results.
Of course, things won’t always go perfectly. Some deadlines may be missed or your team may approach the work differently than you would. As a manager, you have to stay committed to the process and not jump in and try to take over. Since my daughter is so young, I am prepared for dirty clothes to come home mixed with the clean ones, and I expect that some belongings may be left behind. And that is okay.
While delegating means letting go of control, it’s still important to be accessible in case your team has questions or runs into any issues. Just as I have always made myself available to my team during a critical project, I have rented a condo close to my daughter’s camp while she is away. Just in case anyone needs me!
Author: Ashlee Goodman