This is a guest post by MJST Success Coach, Christina Schroeder. It was originally published in the #thrivetoday mobile app, which you can download from the App Store or Google Play!
“If I want something done right, it’s faster if I just do it myself.” Does this sound familiar? Even if you’re surrounded by a team craving development and your calendar can’t take one more addition – we often fall into the trap of avoiding delegation, thinking we can do it faster and/or better than someone else.
It’s time to challenge that story.
What would be possible if you began to master delegation while truly developing your team? What would you be able to do that you don’t have time for today? What vision could you bring that you don’t have the mental clarity to lean into right now, because you’re too busy putting out fires?
So often, when we avoid delegation, we do so because we’re afraid of the problems that could arise (a limitation-based mindset). But the reality is, if we learn how to effectively delegate and set expectations, we’re actually able to achieve at much higher levels (a possibility-based mindset).
To begin shifting your mindset from limiting (“I must do it for it to be right.”) to possibility (“How much could we accomplish?”), we have to realize that not every employee is ready for a quick and easy handoff of projects or responsibilities. Therefore, one of the first steps to growing your team and its output is to recognize where in the learning process your employees are. Doing this will help you determine how hands-on you need to be as you assign tasks.
In general, employees tend to fall into three categories: 1) Training/High Touch, 2) Coaching/Medium Touch, and 3) Trusting/Low Touch. Note that the same employee could be in multiple buckets, depending on the task or project being assigned.
Let’s dig into all three to get a better handle on what they mean and how to best support an employee in that category:
Training – High Touch
Employees who are “high touch” may be new to your organization or, for whatever reason, don’t have the skillset to completely own a project yet. These team members will need training and guidance as you help them build their level of clarity and certainty to complete the assigned task. Some management strategies for Training/High Touch employees might include:
- Identify the “big rocks” of the task or project – these are the things that are required for operational excellence or service consistency. This is a good opportunity to bring your own attention to the items that you intuitively know (thanks to natural talent or experience), but that someone else might not be as aware of without guidance.
- Walk your learner through the big rocks. Include context (e.g., why is this important?) and background (e.g., how have we done it before?), and provide a judgement-free space for them to ask clarifying questions. Pay attention to the types of questions they ask; this may unveil an opportunity for future training/coaching.
- From there, show them how to complete the project or task (this may include a combination of verbal instruction and demonstration). Then, have them take the lead while you take a support role. You will be side-by-side with them as they complete the process on their own. This will help you identify what and how much additional training is needed.
Coaching – Medium Touch
Employees who are “medium touch” consistently demonstrate the ability to complete the big rocks of a project or task (they know what HAS to be done and repeatedly execute on that). Now is your opportunity to coach them into a higher level of quality and/or increase their confidence in their ability to problem-solve or put their own spin on it. Some strategies and considerations for Coaching/Medium Touch employees may include:
- As the employee becomes confident in the non-negotiables of the project (the big rocks), share your best practices or tips/tricks. The learner may or may not leverage them, but it adds a new layer of things to consider.
- Coaching is where you offer these tools for your learner to implement and leave it for them to adapt in their own way. What is important to note here is that your learner can interpret and implement these tips in their own way – it may not look exactly the way you do things.
- Coaching = conversation. Recognize them for what they are doing well and dig deeper (don’t take over) on the opportunities you may be seeing for improvement.
Trusting – Low Touch
Employees who are “low touch” are fully enrolled in the non-negotiables/big rocks and have integrated their personal style into the task or project. Now it’s time for you to let them run with it! Whether it’s taking over a client account, making sales on their own, running a project, or some other responsibility relevant to your business, Trusting/Low Touch employees are ready to work with more independence. Some considerations for managers of these Low Touch employees:
- A culture of feedback is crucial for trust to truly exist. There should be nothing left unsaid between the two of you and, if you have empowered your team, they should be comfortable asking you questions should they arise.
- Set expectations – deadlines, check-ins, boundaries, etc. – so that you can turn the project over without needing to hover. When clear expectations are set, your learner feels supported without being micromanaged or abandoned, and you feel confident that they are clear in what success should look like.
The most important part of the training, coaching, trusting process is two-way communication between you and your learner. Be careful about making assumptions. Just because they’re a top employee doesn’t mean they always fall in the Trusting/Low Touch category. Just because they are a new hire, they don’t always need to live in training for extended periods of time. Dialogue and learning check-ins will help you target your level of involvement, assist in strategic delegation, and prevent you from babysitting a group of perfectly capable adults (who probably don’t want to be babysat anyway)!
And, finally, to return to our original questions: what is possible for you as a leader if you disrupt the story that everything has to be done by you? What is possible if you truly develop your team? Time to level up and lean in to trust.
Have the warm fuzzies started yet? Or is that just me?