© 2018 Strengths University

  • Anne

Reframing Delegation as an Engagement Tool

Updated: Feb 27

I don’t want to brag, but I’m an excellent delegator. Why? Because I’m lazy (#Strategic). Okay, maybe not lazy but my motto is work smarter not harder which includes effective delegation. In my first professional res life job, I created three student leadership positions to take care of areas or tasks I really wasn’t excited about doing.

How did I accomplish this feat? In my job proposals, I talked about how each position was a “leadership and development opportunity.” While creating the student positions was driven by me not wanting to do those things, they truly were leadership opportunities for those students. Their self-esteem was boosted, they enjoyed the work, and they learned a ton of skills.

I didn’t know it at the time, but my strategy unintentionally helped increase my staff’s engagement. How do I know? There are tons of engagement surveys out there, but Gallup has found the 12 questions that most significantly impact employee’s engagement. They call those questions the Q12. We won’t talk about all 12 in this post, but we will focus on the two directly related to delegation:

Q06. There is someone at work who encourages my development.

Q12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

We usually think of growth and development in terms of training, going to conferences, workshops, book clubs, or maybe an online course or webinar. These can be great professional development opportunities, but the cost limits how much we can offer to our team members (and even ourselves).

The good news is there are development opportunities all around you:

  • Has one of your employees come to you with a great idea? Give it right back to them. Have them research it to see if it’s feasible, do a proposal to get funding, or coordinate it.

  • Is there a problem with something in your department? Your processes? Resources? Recurring student issues? Have members of your team find creative solutions to the problem. If someone comes to complain about how something isn't working. Challenge them to come up with possible solutions.

  • What do your employees think is interesting about your job? Show them how to do it and give them the opportunity to do some of it themselves.

  • What are your team member’s goals? Do they want to do your job someday? If so - or something similar, let them shadow you and if there’s something that particularly interests them or would be helpful for them to master, give them part or all of that task.

I know not everything can be delegated, but there are plenty of things that can be done by someone else on the team. Sometimes as managers, we’re protective of our people and think, “everyone is already so busy, why would I give them more work?” Yes, everyone is busy, BUT when you give people work that allows them to work in their Strengths Zone – aka aligned with their talents – you’re actually giving them something they are excited to do.

I’ll give you an example. I hate running numbers and making spreadsheets. It’s tedious and takes me forever because it’s so frustrating for me. One of my RAs, LOVED doing that sort of thing, so I hired her to be my work study student too. She enjoyed the task, got it done much more quickly than I ever could, and knowing that I trusted her to take on these things gave her self-esteem a boost, not to mention more experience that she can use as she moves forward. The process also helped her be even more engaged in her role because she understood another part of the process and could teach her peers about what she had learned.

In this process, two things must remain in focus: the talents of your employees and their developmental goals. Giving random tasks to random employees isn’t the best way to go. Yes, sometimes you do just need it done, but the more you understand your team members’ talents, the better you’ll know who would like and would be good at doing certain things. When people are working in their Strengths Zone, they’re more productive, creative, positive, and their sense of well-being improves. When an employee is completing a task in their Strengths Zone they will get that task done quicker, better, and will feel good about the work their doing.

As managers, it’s easy to think in terms of “as the boss it’s my responsibility to get all the things done,” but that’s not entirely true. It’s your job to make sure things get done, but that doesn’t mean we have to, or should be, be the one who does everything. The more you delegate, the more it frees you up to actively supervise your staff and make strategic decisions for your team. Giving people tasks that align with their talents, both gives them opportunities for development, increases their engagement, and is one less thing you need to worry about doing yourself. Win-win-win.