Following on my last post, I have received numerous requests for ideas in building leadership skills.  In response, I have decided to dedicate one post per month to development ideas.  Stay tuned for more to come.

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There are a couple of important things to keep in mind about skill development in the workplace.  First, and most important, is that you should never expect any help from anyone else in developing your skills, not even your employer.  I have seen very few organizations that are good at this.  I have seen HR organizations come up with great ideas, designs and materials for developing employees, but it is rare when they are well executed.  Line managers simply are not motivated to make it happen.  If you want to develop your skills, you better make it happen yourself!

Secondly, the best skill development comes from in-job opportunities…such as job swaps, special projects, etc.  There does not have to be any company or personal expense involved.  This is an important consideration to keep in mind when trying to make your own development happen.

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So, to start, let’s talk about Delegation…since that was the subject of the last post.

I know that a lot of HRD organizations will tell you that to be better at delegation you must first understand your reluctance to delegate, and then address that in your own personal make-up.  While intellectually I agree with that notion, I kind of feel as if it is the long way around.  It reminds me of the Woody Allen movie Sleeper, when he awakens after being asleep for 200 years and remarks that he has missed 200 years worth of therapy, and that if he had gone to all those sessions he might ALMOST be cured by now.

Anyway, here is a more direct approach that I have suggested to several people and heard of good results.

  • For a couple of weeks keep a list of every activity in which you find yourself involved at the office…such as reading and replying to emails, attending meetings, sending out follow-up action lists from your weekly staff meeting, etc.
  • Rank the list of activities from highest to lowest in-terms of what requires your knowledge, experience, and/or professional qualifications to perform the tasks.
  • Take the one task at the very bottom of your list and assign it to someone else.
    • Meet with the person or people to whom you plan to assign this new responsibility and discuss it.
    • Be clear about what exactly needs to be done, what your expectations are, and what good results look like.
    • Encourage them to ask any question they have.
    • Work with them through a cycle or two of completing the task and clarify any aspect of it.
  • Once you have worked through this process and have gotten comfortable with it, try it again with another task.  Work through the same process as described above to be clear on what needs to be done.
  • Continue until you have handed off all the tasks that should be handled by others, and can be handled correctly.  Take it a little at a time and be careful not to over-delegate.

The benefits go far beyond those which you personally will realize.  You will get the most productivity out of your team, you will improve efficiency/profitability, and, finally, and perhaps most important, it will energize and motivate your team because they will see that they are growing and developing themselves.