Management Career Stuck in Neutral? Learn to Delegate

August 21, 2009
Nashville Business Journal


Career growth is often stalled by an inability and an unwillingness to effectively delegate responsibility. Managers who are reluctant to trust and empower others may find themselves unable to move ahead in an organization.
 
When we were young and first entered the work force, we were given a task to do and, because we did such a good job, we were soon given more tasks. Over time we became more proficient at completing the tasks and were promoted to a managerial position with several employees reporting to us. Then, we worked even more hours to demonstrate our dedication to the job.  As a boss, we knew best how to do everything, so there was little reason to spend a lot of time with our employees training them to do work we were so good at.

And so, we worked our way up the ladder doing much of the detail work ourselves. We gave orders to our employees and then looked over their shoulders to make sure the work was done just like we would do it. We became expert “micro-managers” and as a result, probably stalled our career growth.

Hold everything! If you have the word “manager” in your title you are supposed to lead others on your Team. You are not supposed to do all the work yourself. Managing is traditionally defined as “getting work done through others.” Think about that.

Early in my managerial career, I had the responsibility for about a dozen people to accomplish a specific project, and when I thought I had everything covered, I started doing a task myself.  A savvy senior manager pulled me aside and showed me that a third of my team was not actually working.  Lo and behold, I was unaware because I was too busy on my own manual tasks!

He encouraged me to think of myself as an orchestra conductor who must get a group of musicians who play different instruments to produce beautiful music. In managerial terms, that translates to getting a group of individuals to complete the various tasks that together accomplish the job at hand.  This transformational lesson put me on a path to become a trusting and empowering delegator.


Your ability to effectively delegate is essential to your career growth – define, assign, follow-up, evaluate, and give credit for achievement. Your role as a leader is simply to get the job done. Don’t confuse activity (like working a lot of hours) with accomplishment (achieving the goal.) Your bottom line responsibility as a manager is accomplishing the mission at hand.

Trust is the key component in effective delegation.  You’ve got to be able to trust your people.  Stressed-out because you don’t have your hand in everything? Get over it!  Get the right people on the Team and give them clear direction. You can’t do it all yourself – get used to trusting others. An empowered, high-quality team with a clear mission is your ticket to success.

Leaders keep their head up because they are not immersed in the details. Leaders have the time to see “over the hill” and “around the corner”.  No matter what your leadership position is today, the ability to delegate effectively is one of the key components to successful career growth over the long term.


Joe Scarlett, joe@joescarlett.com
Retired Chairman of Tractor Supply Company
Founder of the Scarlett Leadership Institute

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