Helicopter parenting. We are the generation for whom this term has been invented. We hover over our offspring’s every step, whether it’s homework, their teeth, their sports games or even their mates, we are never too far away from ‘being involved’. And that’s great. The world needs involved parents. Parents who protect their kids and love them to within an inch of their lives. But we are also the generation of parents whose kids will remain living at home far beyond when we think they should have flown the nest. The generation of parents whose kids will need more assistance to graduate to adulthood than any previous youngsters before them. The generation of parents whose kids will need us to shelter, protect and guide them for a lot longer than we did. Now while we applaud the parents that nurture their kids to this extent, what we are starting to see, more and more, are leaders who take this thinking into the workplace.
Certain business methodologies actively cater for the nurturing and facilitative way of working. Agile development for example, talks at length about self-regulating teams, just like some of the parenting ‘gurus’ talk about self-regulated napping (as the mother of boys I have one word for you. Are you ready? It goes like this… phooey… I would no longer be the mother of anyone if I had had to wait for my children to ask for a nap!). Now don’t misinterpret us, we love self-regulated teams, our entire business model is built on the premise of getting your team to be the most productive and self-managed team possible. What we are trying to get away from is an environment where the leader protects his or her team from any disappointment, from trying anything too hard, from making decisions and then living with the consequences.
So are you a helicopter manager, and what can you do to ensure that you are giving your team the space to take ownership of an issue and run with it? In short, do you know how to delegate effectively?
Believe it or not, effective delegation has a number of steps, though it isn’t always a series of tasks one to logically follow another, but there are a number of vital aspects to being able to delegate effectively.
You can begin by identifying individuals you want to grow within the business. These are the team members that you will be investing in. Just a note – you should want to grow everyone in the organisation. If you don’t, you may want to re-look at the people in your organisation and possibly consider a strategy to deal with them.
Identify what can and what can’t be delegated. This also takes a level of maturity for you as a leader. People can do what you do, we promise. But they may need some training or guidance or even to be allowed the freedom to do things their way. And you need to let go enough to let them.
Begin with small items that can be handled by the nominated individuals. Don’t throw a multi-million rand project at someone you previously wouldn’t have let shred papers without supervision. Match the tasks to the people that you have identified. Consider things such as experience, responsibility, training and ability to take ownership.
The nice thing about starting small is that should the person fail, it can be a teachable moment as opposed to a corporate crisis.
One of the most important aspects of delegating is the ability to feed back to the individual in a constructive way. If they didn’t quite achieve what you had in mind, begin with the question “Did I clearly lay the foundation of what I was expecting? Were the goals unequivocal, achievable and measurable?” Once you have satisfied yourself that you had done an impeccable job of communicating the goals, you can then give feedback to the individual. Clearly articulate the expectations and comparative achievements. Ask them what they thought they struggled with, and discuss possible alternative solutions they could have explored. This will give them a ‘blueprint ‘of behaviour for future similar situations or decisions. And then, even if they failed the first time, you have to let them try again.
Learning to let go (on the managers side) and to take responsibility (on the employees side) is a tough lesson. But it’s also circular, and inevitably makes life a lot easier for the manager or business owner as their time becomes less cluttered, and it allows employees the opportunity to grow and expand their thinking. Who knows, a different point of view might be just the trick to propel your business to the next level!
Join us at for a 90 minute AvoByte session on the Delegation Dilemma, from our Leading Edge series.