4 Attributes of Effective New Manager Delegation

a giraffe is looking over a fence the way a new manager might look over an employee's shoulders

New managers need to fight their instincts to watch over their team too closely. Micro-managing may be a temptation, but it has unfortunate consequences.

In your desire to monitor your team members’ activities, be careful you don’t overdo it and stifle growth. Your job as a new manager is more about assigning tasks than directing how the work must be done. Yes, you need to delegate goals. But then you must allow your workers to own the goals for a time and figure out themselves how to deliver.

Your employees need guidelines, to be sure…guidelines that may range from a deadline to budget restraints to check-in stops along the way. But they need to develop the confidence and the creativity to accomplish the task on their own. If you oversee the task too closely and take control, you undermine trust, sabotage motivation and limit learning.

Based upon feedback from thousands of new manager training program participants over the last 20 years, it’s all in the way you delegate. Effective delegation has four attributes:

  1. Clear outcomes
    Employees need to understand the overall picture. What, exactly, are they expected to accomplish? Where should their work lead? Why is it important and what will ultimate success look like? How will success be measured?  And by whom?
  2. Clear expectations
    What are the boundaries? If you are not crystal clear on the constraints, your employees will flounder and you will be tempted to hover. When there is confusion, look in the mirror at what might have been missing from your description of the assignment. Be crystal clear about what is mandated, guided and autonomous with the task at hand.
  3. Clear understanding
    Make sure the task is fully understood by your employee. Encourage questions. Avoid missteps and time wasters by clarifying the work assignment at the onset…not later. When you hand off a task to someone, simply ask them – Is your mission clear?  And give them the space to honestly reply.  If your organizational culture makes it difficult to ask questions, pose a few yourself to get the dialogue started.
  4. Clear oversight
    Yes, since you are ultimately accountable for the effectiveness of your team as a new manager, you need to feel relatively confident that your workers are performing their tasks well. Your challenge is to find a judicious balance between ensuring that employees are working on the right things at the right time in the right way and diving in at the slightest derailment. Your options when things are really off track are to adjust the assignment, change the task owner or stay the course. Try to offer advice only when asked…adjust behavior with performance coaching rather than taking over.

Effective delegation requires clear definition. You as manager are accountable for the task and your employee is responsible for getting the job done. Encourage creativity and growth in your team members by keeping the roles separate and giving your workers the gift of pride in their achievement.

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