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Delegation: The Human Way to Scale Up

Jose Ciccio

ex-Senior Engineering Manager at SchoolMint

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In the world of engineering leadership, delegation stands out as a fundamental human touchpoint crucial for achieving scalability. Really, that’s an important tool people have to scale themselves. While automation streamlines processes, it is delegation that reflects the human artistry in leadership, allowing teams to scale up effectively. If it is used correctly also has some other positive side effects like boosting people morale, giving more responsibility and visibility to team members, help them grow in their career path among othes.

First, let’s address the elephant in the room…

I guess that probably you have heard these expressions (or variations of it):

“Delegation is for lazy people (insert here the job title, applies to many roles) that don’t want to do their job.”

or

“If you delegate too much, you’ll lose your job you need to be important for your company.”

These two are far from the truth. As everything in life there are tools that will help you succeed and grow personally and professionally, everything will depend on how you decide to use the tools you have and also what’s the intention you have for using them.

You cannot delegate every single thing you do and expect to be doing a good job. Not everyone can do everything. You need to understand and be on top of important tasks you have do do. The main goal of delegation is to teach others how to do a task that cannot be necessarily automated and then free up your time to be able to tackle different things, not to give you a permanent paid time off.

On the other side, if you hoard all the tasks to make you important, you can end up being burned out and less productive. On the long run you end up preventing yourself from growing on your career path. Not to say that if you’re a manager or responsible directly or inderectly yo people you will be cutting people’s growth and could end up doing a toxic work environment where people don’t feel motivated.

Empowering Through Delegation

Delegation empowers individuals within a team, distributing responsibilities based on skill sets and strengths. By entrusting tasks to capable team members, a leader not only unlocks their potential but also fosters a sense of ownership and accountability. This empowerment forms the foundation for sustainable growth.

Take into consideration that if you are also in charge of career paths, this will help the team members to grow and see what could be the potential branch on their career path that they are interested the most.

Remember that delegating should be to teach others how to do a particular task and help them through the way to make sure they are successful. This way they will feel more comfortable doing different tasks and also you will be sure that what you are delegating is being tackled the way you think it should be addressed.

Leveraging Diverse Skill Sets

Every team is a mosaic of diverse talents and skills. Delegation, as the human way to scale, acknowledges this diversity and strategically assigns tasks according to individual strengths. It allows each team member to contribute meaningfully, creating a collaborative environment where the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

Through my years of being manager, I learned what moved people that I worked with. Some individuals want to help others, some people want to improve processes. On the other hand there are some that want to be 100% technical or be individual contributors forever. Understanding that there are different personalities is key to delegate. Also realize that everyone has different objectives and goals is important as a manager, do not try to cut the same t-shirt size for everyone.

Nurturing Leadership Skills

Delegation is not just about task distribution; it is a conduit for nurturing leadership skills within the team. When team members are entrusted with responsibilities, it cultivates leadership qualities, fostering a culture of mentorship and skill development. This not only benefits the individuals but also contributes to the overall growth and resilience of the team.

A good way to check how the team and the individuals are going is with 1:1 sessions. This is the time for the individual to share thoughts, share how are they feeling and also for you to understand how they are going and also coach them and teach how the tasks should be done.

Quick note: 1:1 are meant to be a broader conversation, career path, morale, have action items, work on OKR and many other things, which we can cover in a future article, just keep in mind that this time can also be used for this topic and understand how individuals are feeling about different tasks they are working on.

Enhancing Decision-Making

In todays world, where there most of the engineering projects are complex, it is fundamental to have effective decision-making. Delegation spreads decision-making responsibilities across the team, tapping into the collective intelligence and diverse perspectives within. This dynamic approach not only accelerates the decision-making process but also ensures well-rounded and thoughtful choices. By knowing how to delegate, what things to delegate and who to do those things, teams can grow, and everyone in the team can be benefited from those actions. Each individual will learn not only from the tasks they are assigned to, but also from their peers. Knowledge will continue to flow amongst all the individuals making it a great tool to get teams to the next level. It is important to note here, that these knowledge transfer spaces should be facilitated by the manager to make sure that people are understanding and learning from everyone.

Adapting to Change

Delegation aligns seamlessly with the adaptability required in today’s fast-paced engineering landscape. As projects evolve and priorities shift, the distributed nature of delegation allows teams to flexibly reallocate tasks and resources. This adaptability ensures that the team remains agile and responsive to emerging challenges.

To improve the success ratio of a team adapting to change, make sure to be clear about changes, why are they happening and have clear communication about not only the reason why they are happening but also the impact these changes may end up having for the work people do.

Conclusion: The Human Touch to Scalability

In the symphony of engineering leadership, where automation provides the melody, delegation adds the human touch. It is the only human way to scale up effectively, recognizing and harnessing the unique strengths, talents, and potential within a team. As leaders delegate strategically, they not only propel their teams towards scalability but also create a harmonious and empowering work culture.

Delegation is the art of managing workload, empowering individuals, and fostering a culture of collective achievement — the true essence of human scalability in engineering leadership.


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Jose Ciccio

ex-Senior Engineering Manager at SchoolMint


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