I have been fortunate to have had (and still have!) great leaders and mentors in my life. As with most of us, an invested colleague, manager, friend or family member has guided me to the head of a particular path and, then with words of encouragement, set me off to explore that path on my own. Despite my seemingly singular journey, evidence of my mentor’s continued presence has always been apparent. Perhaps the guidance was manifest in a resource left for me to circumvent a boulder in my path, or through an encouragement – or reprimand – not to wander, to lengthen my stride or to get back in the game. Sometimes it was as simple as an invitation to look ahead to the parallel path my mentor walked, to emulate his/her successful behaviors.
Regardless of whether the path I trod was professional or personal in nature, each leader/mentor employed a common pattern of delegating to me a particular task, experience, opportunity or path: they prepared me and, then, they let go.
Great leaders know the risk and power of delegation. Delegation can produce frustration and result in unrealized objectives. But more likely, when done properly, delegation promulgates development, efficiency, effectiveness and success. It ensures an environment for innovation and for growth, neither likely achievable when one person is the sole source for ideas and execution.
Below are 4 tips that will help you prepare and then, let go, helping you to delegate in a way that minimizes the inherent risk and maximize the inherent benefits:
- Inspire: Great leaders envision and communicate a purpose and value its achievement. In doing so, they inspire and motivate others through their words, actions, energy and integrity in purpose; inspiration enlarges the perimeters of vision, confidence and initiative, and, ultimately, the ability of others to get things done.
- Teach: Great leaders teach others the foundational and practical “tricks of the trade”, along with the essential, but softer skills – communication, innovation, collaboration, initiative and respect. Great leaders teach not only the “what” and the “why “of each skill, but, most importantly, the “how”. Helping others to learn to replicate successful behaviors as well as encouraging innovation supports personal and organizational success.
- Communicate, Guide and Support: A great leader ensures an environment where the leader moves out of the way to let the individual execute that for which he/she was trained, tasked and trusted to do. A great leader will:
- Communicate a clear purpose and scope; establish boundaries
- Help identify potential roadblocks or clear the roadblocks that can’t be cleared on their own.
- Be supportive, but not rescue.
- Guide by requiring accountability.
- Acknowledge and allow development to come through both successes and failures.
- Assess: Great leaders are available to help pick up the pieces when things go south and help assess and identify what went wrong. Similarly, they are available to celebrate and attribute success and help analyze the key elements that led to the success (or how it could be refined for greater impact the next time).
So, with these as a foundation, you can prepare to let go!
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