The ability to delegate and let go is an important factor when bringing your team together to grow and scale up your technology business. It frees you up to work on the business, rather than working in it.

For those who struggle to delegate and get stuck with a mountain of work – or could use some fresh perspectives, here are some of the most valuable takeaway thoughts from a recent Threads meetup discussion with founders and senior managers on the subject of delegation.

“Delegation is empowerment followed by coaching”

 

When something needs doing, the first question to ask yourself is ‘who can I get to do this?’ as a way to make delegation your first port of call.

If you remain in charge of most things you become a bottleneck. You’ll start to make poor decisions as good decisions need good information and you can’t keep track of everything. Letting go is the only way for a business to scale, so start today.

Beware of your own ego, aka technical ‘pride’. It’s not all about you. It’s about the team and your ability to maximise the ability of the team. Leaders need a degree of modesty so as not to overwhelm others and assume that their way is best.

Consider what might happen if you don’t let go. How that would look to other staff; like you’re driven by ego, like you don’t trust them, like they will never have a chance to make a difference, like there is no point in showing initiative.

You can’t micromanage leadership. Ultimately this creates a command and control culture where people do as they’re told or leave to do good things elsewhere. Let people make their own stamp.

Delegate in a way that suits the person’s profile, their learning style and the degree of support they need. Adjust the level of granularity that you give to suit each person’s needs.

Delegation is empowerment followed by coaching. What you need to do is to:

  • Involve people from the start, don’t just hand over a done deal.
  • Explain the background so that they can see the whole scene and not just their little part.
  • Give them real responsibility. Make it like it’s their own baby.
  • Support them but don’t take over. Learn to ask questions about the way things are going without appearing to be critical or directing.
  • Encourage them to try new things, their own ideas and not just yours or what’s been done before.
  • Accept that others will do things differently from you and that this may be a good thing. They may be doing it a better way.

“Seek qualitative feedback along the way and feedback from peers”

 

Good delegation is a way to give people management experience and to try them out. But don’t always delegate to the same person. This could just shift the bottleneck.

First ensure that the person is motivated, engaged and also has the capacity to take on the task.

Define what ‘good’ looks like, sharing any known unknowns, concerns or risks upfront. This takes the pressure off the person receiving the task.

Anticipated outcomes or deliverables must also be clearly defined upfront. Often one person will feel the task is clear, while the other may not. Probe. Double check.

It’s okay to define the rules as you go, so long as everyone is in agreement with the method, outcomes or deliverables.

Seek qualitative feedback along the way and feedback from peers. If you’re disappointed with the progress or outcomes, it’s probably because you left it too long before checking in.

With KPIs (key performance indicators), less is more. Ensure people work towards the objective, not just the KPI. Percentage-based KPIs are universally understandable, fostering a shared sense of success if publicised.

Rejuvenate your desire to teach. Inspire and engage your team to deliver tasks as well as you can, to the standard you desire.

Refresh yourself with delegation techniques, and situational leadership. Don’t just adopt the pattern that mirrors your own strengths.

Some engineers prefer specific and defined tasks, allocated in series. Some prefer to work in parallel, towards deadlines. Some work best through others. Many may wish to remain do-ers, while others seek to become leaders or managers. Make sure you know which is which.

Founders appointing a CEO may see this as the ultimate delegation, allowing the founder to concentrate on their strengths, or to return to things that got them into the industry originally.

Threads meetups are a way for founders and department heads of technology companies to share learning, experiences and conundrums. These roundtable discussions unpack topics around leadership, business and operations. Most people find at least one improvement to take away and implement. Threads is held at 6.30 – 8.30pm on the first Wednesday of each month. To RSVP, head to the Threads South West meetup page

Keep an eye out for more Threads take away thought guest blogs coming to TechSPARK soon.