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The Magnificent 7: Must-have management skills for new leaders, Part 2 – Delegating

4 min read

By Matt Poepsel

Manage with confidence with these tips for becoming a master delegator

In this 7-part series, I outline key management skills for first-time supervisors, managers, and leaders. Each skill can be studied, practiced, and improved over time. Channel your inner Denzel, and manage with confidence! Here goes part 2!

Chances are you had the opportunity to become a manager in part because you were a strong individual contributor. In my experience working with early career leaders, this can be a blessing and a curse. As a high performer, you were likely a dependable and valued producer. You learned vital skills and behaviors that positively impacted your organization and those around you.

At the same time, some first-time managers have a hard time letting go of this “if it’s going to be, it’s up to me” mindset. They think it’s easier, faster, or just plain safer if they do things themselves. These me-first managers inadvertently limit their career advancement and frustrate those direct reports who are in their charge.

If this sounds like you (at least on occasion), allow me to reveal the fatal flaw with this type of thinking: You don’t scale.

Manager-1.jpgIf you want to accomplish big things in your career, you’ve got to learn to master the multiplier effect that comes as a result of working with and through others. This means learning to delegate those tasks which are better done by your direct reports. Here are some tips to help you become a master delegator.

  1. Know thy self: This sage advice from Ancient Greece is apropos for young managers. Your personality holds clues to your motivating needs and natural behavioral style. As it relates to delegation, this means both how and what you delegate. If you’re a very assertive and driving individual who wants results, you may find it relatively easy to delegate detailed work but not decisions. If you’re a very process-oriented and diligent person, you may be less comfortable handing off key operational details. Whatever your personality, know what comes naturally to you. Forewarned is forearmed.
  2. Meet the needs of your direct report: Knowing yourself is only half the equation, however. It’s every bit as important to understand your direct report’s personality and needs. Sometimes, a direct report will have a style that is very similar to yours. In this case you will likely find that delegation flows freely. If their behavioral pattern is quite different from yours, you’ll need to adjust your own style to match theirs. This is your responsibility as the senior person.
  3. Follow-up Goldilocks style: After delegating a project or task, you need to check-in periodically to ensure things remain on track. Delegation is not abdication – you don’t get to throw something onto another person and hope for the best. When following up, however, you don’t want to overdo it and delve into micromanagement. Again, knowing your personality and that of your direct report will guide you as to how and how often you should follow up to make it just right.
  4. Meet in the middle: In the end, you are looking for a delegation approach that works well for you and your direct report. If your respective behavioral preferences are somewhat different, this will be an exercise in mutual expectation setting and negotiation. Don’t ask your direct report to conform 100% to meet your needs, but don’t hesitate to communicate those needs to them when co-designing a delegation method. Put yourselves onto the table before your work on the table.

The good news for young managers is that when done well, delegation is liberating. By charging your direct reports with important and constructive work, you will be freed up to accomplish even bigger things at work. When your mindset shifts to an indirect style of collective achievement, you will begin to fully develop as a high-potential manager and leader.

CEO.jpgAlways remember that delegation means passing off the things you could but shouldn’t do so that you can focus on doing the things that only you can do.

Employees change companies for a number of reasons, and management is a biggie. Delegating is one important management skill, but learn how mastering the art of accommodation can lead to happier employees and a lower turnover rate.  


Matt Poepsel, PhD is the author of Expand the Circle: Enlightened Leadership for Our New World of Work and host of the Lead the People podcast. He serves as Vice President & Godfather of Talent Optimization at The Predictive Index. He holds a PhD in Psychology, an MBA, and a Harvard Business School Certificate of Management Excellence. Matt has more than 25 years of leadership experience as a software executive and consultant. He’s also a US Marine, an Ironman triathlon finisher, and a student of Buddhist philosophy.

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