Mastering Delegation: A First-Time Manager’s Perspective
9 July, 2021
I am sure my story is not uncommon to all new managers: from a person that does, I had to become the one who doesn’t or at least shouldn’t. From all other things my new role entailed, learning to delegate was the most difficult one. Months after becoming a manager, I would still do a lot of things myself. However, staying hands-on started to take its toll, affecting both the team and myself. The problem was glaringly evident. I was not delegating nearly enough as I should have.
Luckily enough, I had a manager who noticed how much I was struggling in my new role and suggested that I take training on management skills. I gladly accepted their proposal and enrolled in the training. For the next six months, I attended monthly sessions that were immensely helpful and strongly impacted my understanding of how the team should operate. The training also helped me identify the reasons behind my persisting refusal to delegate.
First off, I thought I could do better and faster than my team would. I was doing things for a long time and thus was well-versed in how to do them. Under the pressure of deadlines, I would opt to do it myself because it felt faster. Also, whenever I felt a task was too boring or cumbersome, I would do it myself. However, a coach helped me realize that if I would master delegation and be able to offload part of my responsibilities to the team, we would perform much faster, taken as a whole.
Another stumbling block I had to get rid of was that I didn’t delegate because I wanted to shield the team from certain types of tasks. Yet, what I would find tiresome, other people may not. By doing so, I was effectively undermining their opportunities to become familiar with different types of work, including the tiresome one. As it turned out, some of the team members were enjoying those and came up with different approaches that made those tasks more exciting.
Once I became more cognizant of my own self-sabotaging beliefs, I had to externalize them. I printed them on a card which I used as a daily reminder. I also added a line or two on how to workaround them and didn’t shy away from reminding myself every single day. I would start by assessing what I could delegate and what I couldn’t. If a person doesn't have the skills, training them should become a part of the delegation. It was in stark contrast to what I thought of training in the past -- something that was slowing us down rather than helping us ramp up. That made me gradually become more comfortable with delegating. I also made sure that the team was happy about intensified delegation. In fact, the team felt more empowered and supported to grow in their roles.
- Becoming a manager doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and preferably some training. I would always recommend training if that is a possibility. If not, one should always ask for help, either from their managers or mentors. Many first-time managers are, however, reluctant to do that. Being just promoted, they are hesitant to admit they have no idea what they should do.
- Find a way to empower your team and enable them to help you out. It is a two-way street indeed: you help them so that they can help you. For me, delegation meant a profound mindset shift that took time. I made small efforts, day by day, as I became more accepting of it. It meant a lot of reflection and self-reflection: what I could delegate, what was holding me back, what I needed to change, etc.
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