Q: I can struggle with being a micromanager, but I want to make sure everything is running smoothly and tasks are completed correctly. How can I become more comfortable handing things off to my team?

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A: One of the toughest things about leading is knowing when it’s okay to let go—or at least loosen your grip a little. After all, if something goes wrong in your business, it’s your responsibility. Wanting to control every outcome and do everything yourself means you have high standards—but it could also mean your team isn’t receiving the experiences they need to learn valuable skills that can serve both you and your business in the future. Thankfully, it’s possible to ease out of micromanaging while still ensuring a high quality outcome according to a behavioral theory around delegation. Since this is such a meaty topic, we’ll discuss it over the next two newsletters, with Stage 1 and 2 outlined below.

The short answer is that you need to delegate. The unfortunate thing is that “delegation” has become synonymous with handing off responsibility of a usually unwanted task, often times without giving any direction on how to perform that task and what success looks like. To turn delegation into a valuable learning tool for your employee and assessment tool for you, consider moving the employee through four stages of delegation in order to determine their aptitude and readiness for the given skill.

Stage 1: Informing

Your employee will gather information about a specific task or program and report their findings back to you. They are an investigator, not a decision maker. Stage 1 is best used when your employee’s ability to perform a certain task is unknown.

For example, imagine you have an employee who has an idea for how to drive store traffic with an event but your employee has never managed an event for you before. Instead of handing off the task, ask them to gather information around how they would approach doing this event, what day it would be on, who would be invited, in addition to creating a budget. Give them an appropriate amount of time—say a week—to return this information back to you, then have a conversation to discuss their findings. Moving them through the Informing stage, as opposed to just handing off full responsibility, will give you valuable insight into their aptitude and interest in this task. If they come back with a plan that is not well thought out, you’ll know they aren’t ready to run an event for you, but if they return a fully-formed, well thought out plan, you could give them more responsibility with future events.

Stage 2: Reporting Progress

Once your employee has successfully displayed their ability to gather information on a task or program, you can move them to the Reporting Progress stage. Herethey will own aspects of the task but regularly report back to you for quality assurance purposes. Using the same event planning example as above, you would have them confirm the date of the event, order supplies, schedule the staff, create an invite, keeping you looped in after each step.
While the first stage of delegation gives you an idea of aptitude and interest, the Reporting Progress stage gives you an idea of how they collaborate and execute. They will need to collaborate with other team members on staffing the event, deliveries and pickups, in addition to other items. Based on how they perform in this stage, you can move them to the last two stages, Stage 3: Reporting Results and Stage 4: Ownership, which we will discuss in next week’s newsletter.

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