Scaling is impossible without delegation. On the other hand, delegating to smart, capable people can be intimidating and make you feel out of control. But if you can ignore the details while focusing on the goal of every business function, you can effectively delegate. As an added bonus, you’ll be able to learn from them, even as you’re challenging them to help you meet your goals.
How do you lead people who want to push harder than you’re able to push in any single area?
Your Job is to Focus on Your Goal
The first step is the realization that your job isn’t to manage people’s decisions, but to focus on your goal.
Leaders struggle with this, because they put heavy expectations on themselves to tell everyone how to do everything. And that’s the wrong way to look at it. As George Patton said, “Don’t tell people how to do it. Tell them what to do, and let them amaze you with the results.”
Patton was summarizing the difference between leadership and micromanagement.
The leader’s job is to constantly keep people focused on the goal and the “why.” They don’t care about the “how.”
- Do your employees ask you too many questions? Make sure to make them come up with the answer. Talk them through it, while refusing to give them the answer. If they ask you a question, insist that they come to you with a hypothesis as well.
- Do your employees not talk to you enough? Ask for regular presentations with them, where they show you their status, what they’ve been up to and where they need help. In other words, have them summarize how they’re doing, and you’re just there to help. But beware: If you’re too focused on them, they’ll feel under the microscope, adding unnecessary stress. So make sure to make it about the work, not about the person.
Find Your Level of Delegation
That’s the spot every leader needs to find: Your level of delegation.
This is a much-neglected area of focus. It might be simple, but it doesn’t mean it’s not importation. So what’s your level? This depends on where your organization is at skill-wise and how much you want to grow.
Grow fast: You hire people smarter than you in a certain area…
- Who can explain what they’re doing, so you grow in understanding each time they do something.
- Who have enough experience to know a few different ways to solve a marketing problem.
- Who can manage the execution.
- Who can talk about numbers and goals.
Hire people you need to train. This is less threatening, and most people can handle this. Change happens very slowly, and you’re allowed to stay in your comfort zone until the market doesn’t need you any more.
A Few Examples of Level Setting:
Micromanagement isn’t about the boss being involved in details, but rather the boss changing the rules throughout the job. To put it simply, if you want someone to achieve a goal, give them the goal, ask them how they want to do it, and challenge them by asking them questions. Don’t tell them how to do it.
If you have a burger flipper, tell them how to flip the burger, and constantly tell them how to flip the burger. Let them know that they don’t have to decide how the burger should be flipped. That’s your job. This isn’t micromanagement, since the expectations are clear. They don’t have to read your mind.
A few examples from real life…
Anne delegated Ian to build a team of engineers to solve a problem. Ian started building a team that included someone Anne didn’t like. So she told Ian that person couldn’t be on the team. This is micromanagement, since Ian now feels that Anne will not only give him an assignment, but will want to be involved in how it’s executed. In this case, the level was initially set at “get this job done,” then changed to “get this job done, but when I want to, I’ll tell you how to do it, and when I don’t want to, I expect you to make the decisions, and you’ll never know which is which.”
Ted asked creative director Mark to build the team for an assignment. Ted hinted that he wanted to be the writer on the project. In this case, Ted both delegated and then created a potential expectation, which muddied the waters. So, does he expect Mark to build the team the way Mark thinks it should be built? Or does he expect to meddle in the writing portion?
Navy SEALs Move with Decision…Normally
So the big question is: how do you lead well, with clarity of communication across all formats?
A Navy SEAL told me about a time in Iraq when they found out about some bad guys, doing bad things. They had ISR (a drone, giving them specific info about where they were and what they were doing), and were driving as fast as their Humvees could carry them to the target when they got a radio call from a commander who had responsibility for the area, and they were under orders to stop.
And it didn’t matter that they were out in the open, where the bad guys could now see them and would now have time to react. It didn’t matter that, had they known they weren’t supposed to engage the bad guys, they would have stayed hidden. They were under new orders. So they stopped, out there in the open.
And by the time they were able to move, most of the bad guys had escaped, possibly to take more American lives.
The SEALs were doing what they do, moving with speed, with no hesitation and with overwhelming force. But the order to stop killed their advantage.
Momentum Depends on Clarity and Discipline
You see, all this scaling and delegating talk isn’t about creating warm, fuzzy feelings. It’s really about creating the strong movements that only come when each member of the team is working with confidence. And this isn’t about being intense. It’s really about discipline and process. It’s only then that you can organize in a way where your team can be decisive…when they can feel the power of momentum.
And, as always, discuss this with me on Slack.