At the heart of personal and professional development are two key factors: empowerment and delegation. You could consider these two factors to be on-par, because to delegate is to empower your individual contributors to take on new responsibilities.
On first thought, the concept of delegation may not strike you as a skill that employees in non-managerial positions can utilize. But the results—time management, tasks prioritization, professional and company development, and provoked learning—can empower individual contributors to bring delegation into their toolbox.
Fierce knows delegation, when done right, equips and empowers individual contributors to be decision-makers.
Here are some ways managers can coach their individual contributors (and those transitioning to a managerial role) to utilize delegation in their workflow, boosting their performance and developing leadership skills.
Drive performance and development
Every conversation involves yourself and sometimes other people. As a leader or manager, encourage your individual contributors to check in with themselves and look at their workflow periodically.
Do they know where they have authority to make decisions and act? While they may be on the receiving end of delegation, where can they take initiative and manage their own workload?
As a first step, sit down with your employees that are individual contributors and create a “to-do” list. Outline all of their responsibilities and everyday tasks, from the mundane ones to any strategic projects that they may be involved in.
It might help to remember what author Annie Dillard said about tasks and their influence in shaping our life:
“How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.”
So, how are your individual contributors living their lives?
This is what you can explore in open, curious conversations with your employee. Your role here is less to tell them what they should do and more to coach them into thinking about the tasks that make up their work life. Encourage them to think about how they can apply delegation tools to boost their productivity, balance their workload, and enhance their development.
Identifying what your individual contributor’s top three time takers are can help them see what tasks are clogging up their workflow, not allowing them to allocate time to the tasks or projects that are going to best further their development.
Chances are, these tasks are ones that your employees are good at. Just like managers, individual contributors are most effective when they are doing things that impact their own and their company’s growth. The tasks that challenge their skills (rather than keep them comfortably using old ones), and gives them a strong sense of purpose and investment in their organization, will keep them engaged. This is a great place to push your individual contributor. Acknowledge their ability and ask what can they achieve by freeing up this time? How can they grow into a new challenge?
I’m speaking to individual contributors here: What tasks really matter? Which ones don’t? What could be shelved off your plate, or delegated to another individual contributor? How can you build more purpose and growth-related tasks into your daily workflow?
The tasks or responsibilities that take up the brunt of your workday may not necessarily further your growth or development. And they can be delegated.
As mentioned above, you can start by outlining your top three time-takers (here at Fierce, we like to call them the “drainers”) and than identify the “gainers”, the tasks or projects that are going to contribute most towards your growth. This is a practice that will benefit your professional development (and your workflow) now, and will be a key skill to have if you enter a managerial position in the future.
After identifying these time-takers, determine how much time this has freed up for you. It could be anything from an hour a week to several days. Visualizing a newly empty room, a block on your calendar or freed brain-space, will empower an individual contributor to better identify the tasks that are a best use of their time.
And what responsibilities you now have time for could easily be the ones that you had no “room” to fit in before. You’re realizing that they are taking front and center stage in your development.
Why? Because you made room for them by delegating the tasks that were clogging your growth.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that individual contributors ditch all of the tasks that take up time in favor of only working on ones that are essential to their development. We all have responsibility and ownership over tasks that we may find to be mundane, boring, route, or repetitive. Someone has to do them and it very likely might be you.
What individual contributors can do is prioritize the order of their workflow, or delegate tasks to another team member whose skill sets are better suited to the tasks. As a result, they make time for the projects that are integral to their professional development.
They can also become familiar with working within a delegatory mindset so that if the day comes that they are in a managerial position, they will have the knowledge to delegate effectively.
Since growth is integral to an individual contributor’s development, coaching them to understand the delegation process is beneficial to managers as well.
What does this look like?
If you ever attend a Fierce Conversations workshop or implemented our Delegation program in your leadership training, you will learn about the decision tree model. Picture a tall tree with many branches and thousands – probably millions – of leaves. At each level of the tree – root, trunk, branch, and leaves – is a level of decisions.
For example, a leaf decision is made without having to report to anyone else, either colleague or manager. At the next level, a branch decision is one an individual contributor can make on their own, but they’ll need to report on the action on a daily-to-monthly basis.
At the heart of decision-making is the roots of the “tree”. These are the decision that are made with input from multiple people. They’re not delegatable, and may likely have a significant impact on the growth of your company.
Being aware of what level a decision rests in will help your individual contributors become aware of the impact of a responsibility that they own, as well as how they can optimize their workflow.
Involving individual contributors in root decision meetings also builds their sense of purpose and connection to the heart of the company, the why of what it does, and it’s continual strategies to grow. You’re tapping into the soul of your company.
In the process, managers are able to delegate tasks and prioritize the undertakings that are key to their development and the growth of their company – at the same time as individual contributors.
And when you grow together, you’re creating a culture of development. That’s a win-win.