Delegation is distributing work in the right way among team members. It’s a leadership task that demands a steady, humble ego and good listening. It’s not enough just to give people work, you must listen to them. Learn their strengths and desires. Understand their current commitments and know what season they are in in their life. Some team members might be able to take on more work than others, or do certain kinds of work more effectively because of their strengths. This will help you delegate work effectively for your project. Delegating work appropriately makes your team members feel heard and understood. When your team members feel heard, they’ll show you what they are most excited about doing, thus making your job easier and giving everyone better experience.
I hope to do a series on leadership in the future, but since we’re on the subject with delegation, I’ll talk about vulnerability for a second. As a leader, everything you do sends a message about expectations and limits. You are their example. Prove to them that you accommodate vulnerability and expect their strength: then they will give you their honesty. Team members will not try to deceive each other if there’s no reason to do so.
As an example, in the making of Delta Phi, the commitment levels were hugely uncertain. I was asking for long shoot days, weekly, over the course of nearly a year and with very little notice given my academic timeline. It also included weekly meetings and rehearsals that were hours long. But if someone was sick, if a few members were overloaded that week, or if the weather was bad, I cancelled. No questions and no debate. As far as I know, I had a better turnout for this project than I or any of my colleagues have had. Why? I pre-empted cancellations and flake-outs by showing my team members that I would accommodate conflict instead of seeing conflict as a threat to my success. People most often are absent from their responsibilities when they feel unsafe in them, when they feel like their leader or supervisor has no benchmark or standard for when enough is enough. When you show the people you work with that you don’t see humanity and mercy as a threat to your goals, they have the freedom to be honest about you about their real level of commitment. If a commitment doesn’t threaten people’s individual weaknesses, they’re more likely to stick to it.
This is important to delegation in the event that you are unsure about what to assign. You may find that instead of chasing people down, your team members feel empowered to come to you to tell you what they have to offer because they know you won’t take undue advantage of them.
This is the second in a four part series on project management. Come back next week to learn hacks and tricks for keeping everyone in your team on the same page.