But not by itself. That could be bad… do this “just because” is not good delegation. It is what follows the word “because” that makes it the most important word in managerial leadership. “This is the work you need to do, and it is important because…” would be the way to start the conversation.
Effective managers spend enough time with their team members to be sure that they understand your work, your vision, and your overall expectations, so that they are not working in a vacuum. At Effective ManagersTM we call this part of delegation the setting of context and boundaries. Many managers often equate this to being too far into “command-and-control”. But the opposite is true. By setting context, managers give their subordinates the information they need to make decisions and take initiatives that are consistent with your overall objectives for the team.
Work Flows into the Future
Managers typically have more work than they can realistically handle in one day because work flows out into the future. This is as it should be. But the corollary is that your team members need enough information to prioritize the work, to decide where to expend their energies that day, that week, that month.
It is not an effective use of your time to move into command-and-control mode. And it isn’t a pleasant situation for your team members to have to wait for you to direct them on every initiative. Rather, part of your managerial leadership work is to provide enough context for each team member to be able to use their judgment to decide what to do when. This is when the magic starts to happen in teams because team members can use their full capability within context.
There are two mistakes that can be made in setting context.
You can set the context too narrowly. In this situation, you are providing too much context, and too much direction directly to your team member. From their perspective, this feels restrictive, and that you are micromanaging them.
On the other end of the spectrum, you can set the context too broadly, by not giving enough information to your team member. This feels, from their perspective, like you are not giving them enough direction, and that you are leaving them adrift to make decisions without enough information.
Your challenge as a manager is that the amount of context required by each one of your team members will differ. The appropriate amount of context differs depending on the amount of experience they have, the amount of time they have been in the position, and the complexity of the work that you are delegating, together with a host of other factors. It is important that you assess each one of your team members separately and determine the appropriate degree of context that you need to set for them.
You can only do this by having interactive conversations with each of your team members, and engaging in fulsome interactions around the delegation process so that you can be certain that both of you are on the same page.
Boundaries are also important
As the manager, you also need to set boundaries – the limits within which work will be done. While command-and-control is not good, the opposite is anarchy. In an manager-subordinate relationship it isn’t “anything goes”. There are boundaries to delegated authority and as a manager you need to be clear about what these are.
5 tips to get you started
Here are a few tips on setting context. To learn more about this, check out the recorded one-hour webinar on this topic on our YouTube channel.
Tip 1: Differentiate between the context you set as part of orientation and induction, which is relatively static, and ongoing context setting which is ever-changing.
Tip 2: Provide an overview of the corporate and environmental aspects of their work that they need to take into account.
Tip 3: What are the key things they need to know about your department (you plan, mission and vision) and the fellow team members they will be working with?
Tip 4: Spend enough time discussing your vision of their role. The position description is only the starting point for the discussion.
Tip 5: Don’t forget to be explicit about your expectations with respect to your working relationships with each other. Don’t assume they will know what you expect!
Delegation is a critical part of effective management. Effective delegation takes place within context that has been set by the manager. This creates a situation where team members can use their judgment to make decision and take initiatives consistent with your vision and plan.
In this Webinar we describe how you can improve the way you set contxt and boundaries for your team mmebrs.