Learning How to Delegate When You Become a Manager
Senior Director of Product at Houzz
Struggling to Let Go
As my team grew, I realized that I was still taking on work that could have been assigned to someone else and always I felt like I had a lot of reasons that kept me from delegating. For instance, I didn't want my teammates to feel overloaded and experience burnout. I also didn't want to stress them out any further, because we were working in pandemic conditions. So I shouldered some of the work. I believed that doing it myself was quicker and more practical than explaining the how-to's to someone else. But in the end, this mindset didn't benefit me or my team.
- First of all, I was overloaded. I was taking on other people’s work. And each task entailed a bunch of follow-ups that I later had to deal with.
- Second, I received feedback about my team not being responsive enough. My Product Managers (PM) weren't getting any limelight because I always answered the questions from management.
- Third, I was stunting my PMs' professional growth. As a PM, you're supposed to juggle 15 different things at once, but my team didn't fully grasp how to prioritize and multitask since I was taking on the “extra” load.
Making the Conscious Decision to Delegate
I hired my team members and I knew that they were talented, capable individuals. So why couldn't I let them take the wheel? I trusted my team, but I needed to learn how to let go.
You have to be mindful that delegating doesn't make you look "less than" in leadership. On the contrary, it shows that you're a good leader. Once I realized this, I took a step back and let my team take more responsibility. Instead of answering emails myself, I reminded my teammates to do so. I started sending them to meetings that I would have previously attended.
I made it a point to change my outlook, which took a lot of energy. (It still takes a lot of energy.) You have to constantly tell yourself: "No, I'm not supposed to do this. I'm supposed to tell somebody else to do this." Be mindful that you're no longer contributing as an individual. As a manager, your job description changes. You have to delegate, take a step back, and watch your teammate deliver. If you have to, remind them of something, but don't do it yourself.
Personally, it took a long time to get used to this new approach. It's especially difficult when you're a "doer." There's something to be done, and your instinct tells you to do it, and you know that you can do it faster. But that's not the point. You have to be thinking of the next thing that needs to be delegated and done.
Once I implemented these practices, I saw things change. I got fewer emails in my inbox and the negative feedback about my team stopped. My PMs were getting noticed. They looked better as employees, and I looked better as a manager.
Transitioning to the Mindset of a Manager
- Trust your people, and trust that delegating will benefit both you and your team in terms of career growth.
- Understand that your work is no longer as an individual contributor. As a manager, people have different expectations from you.
- Remember that it's easy to fall into your old habits. Make it a point to practice self-restraint if you feel the urge of doing rather than delegating.
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Senior Director of Product at Houzz
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