If you’re a leader striving to delegate more to your team members to open time in your calendar but struggling to feel confident that they’re ready to take ownership without your direction and guidance, here are five steps to begin the delegation and transition process.
Five Steps for Transitioning Ownership
First, identify the vision for the scope of work you’d like to delegate. To do this, answer these questions: What are you delegating? When the work – the task, the meeting, the role, the project – is successfully handed off, what does that look like?
Next, ask: what are the current obstacles to doing this transition? What do you feel this individual or team lacks in terms of experience, knowledge, or structure for taking this on? Work to fill in these gaps step by step with the individual or team. Sometimes you have to put in more work and energy in order to surrender some control and transition smoothly in the interest of the overall success of the team. The leader or team member will learn something new in the process, which is good.
Once you have filled in the skill or knowledge gaps, it’s time to get some common leadership mindset obstacles out of the way. There is often limited time for training and transitioning given the ongoing workload. It is very common for leaders to feel resistance to handing off important tasks because they want to do it all and be involved in everything to make sure the vision is executed properly and things continue according to usual plan and quality. However, you need to delegate in order to focus on new, larger things and grow as a team. You can’t progress or scale without making transitions. Also, realize that no one will do a task, run a meeting, plan or execute the project exactly as you would. If you have built a culture with values and expectations that run deep and motivate the team, that will guide the behavior of your leaders and team members. However, no one will do anything exactly as you would. This is where you do have to surrender some control and frame it as a positive: that this team member is learning and the team is embarking on a new phase of growth. You are letting go of some baggage and giving someone an opportunity to grow. Embrace the way they lead and support them.
This leads to the fourth step: Support. Once you hand over responsibility, whether it’s a single task or an entire role, step back and observe. By removing yourself, you’re allowing them to take ownership and lead. It’s essential to not hover and micro-manage after handing over responsibility. Otherwise, they’ll never really take ownership and fully drive the responsibility themselves. However, don’t abandon them. Support them. When you initially train and hand off the scope, you should be there for support digitally or through a scheduled weekly touch base without micromanaging. Set up a structure for how they can go to you for guidance without using you as a crutch. My top two recommendations are to firstly be available digitally for questions and coaching and secondly set up a regular weekly touchbase via phone or in person. In this weekly touchbase, give them feedback on how you see their work progressing positively and where you feel they could focus more or modify their approach and why. Become the observer and biggest supporter of their work instead of the director and critic.
Finally, when is the right time to totally surrender the ownership and control to members of your team? Well, as long as you are the leader, you will have ultimate ownership over their responsibilities. So you will be an ongoing supporter. However, the time is right when you feel confident that they can achieve the ultimate purpose of the task, project, or meeting without you present or guiding along the way – without your input during the process. How they do it may be different and that is important, too, since it could have other effects. So, though they may do it differently, both feel confident in their product and process before completely letting go.
Some Additional Considerations
It takes time. The timeline for the handoff will depend on what you’re handing off. You will have to continue to both monitor how this change is going. Use the periodic touchbases to give consistent feedback – positive balanced with constructive – to the individual or team until the original vision that you set in Step 1 for the transition is achieved. Ask for feedback from the leader or team member as well on how it’s going, too. Work together to make it successful.
Also, you may find during the support period that they may not be the right person or team to take on the new scope of work. Identify why that may be early on but give them a chance. Here, I would say, at least 3 weeks but it depends on what the scope of work is, again. A big part of leadership is iteration, and iteration while keeping a positive attitude and not giving up. If you do feel that the transition is taking too long and they aren’t the right person for on reason or another, keep an open dialogue about what you’re observing. They may have a good reason or questions to resolve. Work with them. The team member may share they don’t understand or enjoy it. Try to understand why and work through. If you do resolve that they really aren’t the right solution, explore other options for the handoff.
Transitions always take time and energy. The team learns more about each other and the work in the process.