I have to admit that one of my biggest flaws is effective delegation. It is something I have really been working on in my career and still have a long way to go to become better. One of my core values is to contribute to the growth and development of others. I firmly believe that a leader not only should surround themselves with the best talent, but also grow and develop the people around them. It takes a certain amount of patience to be an effective delegator. I find it easy to fall into the trap of just doing things myself because I perceive that to be easier or faster. One of the most difficult shifts for me to make is the transition from a doer to a leader, which Sostrin (2017) states is among the most difficult transitions for a leader.
There are a host of reasons why some people are resistant to delegating. Some people, like me, are perfectionists and are concerned about the end result. There are some that feel that passing on work will diminish their own value to the organization. If you need to suppress the growth of others to protect your own value, then I suggest you reexamine your values. Someone else does not have to lose for you to win. No matter how self-aware you think that you are, some of these biases may creep in and necessitate some serious self-reflection. The first step in becoming a better delegator is to recognize that you cannot do everything yourself and that you can provide better value to your organization through delegation.
There are some strategies that I am employing to grow in this area and that have been yielding some great results and happier team members.
• Get to know your team. Make sure you have conversations with your direct reports about the areas in which they would like to grow and develop. What are the things that excite them? What are the areas they are curious about and want to learn more about? What are their strengths so you can play to those also and provide tasks and projects that can give them some wins. I have been very open and intentional with my direct reports in having conversations around what are the things they would find valuable to work on.
- Create a delegation map. Once you have spent some time with your direct reports digging into what are their strengths and opportunities, and in what areas they would like to grow make a table or a roadmap so that you can keep these things in mind as opportunities come up. I note down strengths, opportunities, areas for growth, projects delegated, future projects to consider.
- Be clear on what success looks like. At times, I am not as clear as I could be on exactly what I want the person to do or what a good outcome for me is. I have worked on being clear about that upfront, so the person is clear about what they need to execute. I have found at times when I am unclear, some people are reluctant to ask as they think they should already know. I also encourage, during my check-ins, to talk about success along the way to ensure it is still clear and still makes sense in the context of the project. There are times that priorities might change, or we learn that the problem we thought we had is actually something entirely different so the measure of success may change.
- Be clear on what failure looks like. I try to be clear and talk through what would happen if they failed at this. The point is not only to be prepared for any potential fallout, but also to reassure my team that I have their backs should failure happen. You need to support your team and be there to avoid anything catastrophic from happening, but you should create safety for your team around low-impact failures. Think through with your team about who would be impacted and how, if things do not go as planned.
- Be very clear about the why. Make sure that there is agreement on why this delegation is important and why it was important that you chose them. Have the discussion to pull in the things you learned from your delegation map about their strengths and weaknesses. You might say, “I thought this would be a great project for you because I know you want to grow in the physician relationship space.”
- Check in frequently through the process. I try to frame this in a way that I do not come across as micro-managing. I don’t focus on progress, but focus more on asking what they are learning about the process. Oftentimes, I will even start out by saying not to give me a status update on the progress of the project, but a status update on you. How are you feeling about this project? Is there anything you need from me for this?
So even though at times I need to work on my patience, the rewards of seeing teammates grow is well worth it. I have grown to gain more satisfaction in the success of others and witnessing the growth of the talent around me.
Mario Pistilli, CRA, MBA, FACHE, FAHRA, is administrative director for imaging and imaging research at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. He is an active member and volunteers time for ACHE and HFMA organizations. He is currently serving on the AHRA national Board of Directors. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sostrin, J., To Be a Great Leader, You Have to Learn How to Delegate Well, Harvard Business Review, 10 Oct, 2017.