Managers often obsess about which projects to delegate. They wonder if the team can handle high-stake assignments and fear that a project will spin out of control without their direct involvement. When managers are unwilling to delegate major projects, employees may suspect that those assigned to them aren't highly valued. This is both inefficient and dispiriting. However, when delegating is paired with mentoring, it greatly increases the likelihood of project success and improves team morale.
The purpose of delegation is to make the best use of everyone's time. Ideally, managers should focus on responsibilities that only they can address and delegate projects that their employees are capable of handling. If an employee is well suited for a new area of responsibility, mentoring can prepare them for the challenge. In addition to equipping the employee for the project at hand, mentoring further complements delegation by supporting employee professional development. It shifts the focus from "How do I get this off my plate?" to "How can I promote both team productivity and career growth for my employees?"
Mentoring is an approach to coaching that involves communicating the significance of new assignments while motivating the employee during the transfer of knowledge. The result is that ambitious junior professionals will feel they are valued members of the team as they assume project ownership and develop a better understanding of their role in the success of the organization.
In order to align company and team goals with individual professional objectives, ask yourself these questions before deciding who is best suited to work on a project:
"Does someone already possess the necessary experience?"
"If not, which team member's professional goals make him/ her the best candidate to learn new skills?"
Once these questions are answered, managers can determine the right combination of mentoring and delegating. Delegation alone can leave an employee feeling lost, unaware of the significance of the assignment and, in the worst case, undervalued. Mentoring gives the manager an opportunity to clarify a project's value and to provide the employee with the tools for success.
One of our clients was experiencing growing pains, with customer demand outpacing employee resources. The challenge was to handle the expanded workload while recruiting additional staff. We first identified individuals who could be readily promoted to leadership roles, as well as less experienced team members who could assume additional tasks with some coaching.
Since the organization was "flat," with no formal reporting structure, we paired junior and senior team members for mentoring on client service, multi-tasking, project management techniques and effective communication. Coaching on such broad professional skills gave employees the ability to shape projects instead of focusing on isolated tasks, as they had in the past. They developed a better understanding of the purpose behind their contributions and were motivated to stretch professionally in order to position themselves for future leadership opportunities. This combination of mentoring and delegating motivated the less experienced employees to assume more responsibility, enabling the senior team members to focus on hiring and training new staff to support future growth.
What approach does your organization use for delegation?