As a manager, it is impossible for you to do it all (successfully).

In order to succeed, one of the most critical skills that every manager needs to learn is delegation. But delegation is scary, especially for new managers. Will my team complete the task on time? Will they make me look bad? How can I trust them? Not every employee is ready for the same level of responsibility.

Understanding the four phases of delegation and leadership can help you decide what level of responsibility is right for your team members. These phases are based on the classic concepts of situational leadership and involve the competence and confidence of your team members.

1. Directing: Employees typically start in the directing stage. These employees are new to the role and lack the confidence and knowledge to do the job. These may be people you are training for a new position. In this phase, you will have to be very hands-on. You will need to direct the employee and provide them with a workflow or possibly a checklist to help them complete their tasks. You are responsible for the outcome and must stay engaged with the employee to ensure the work gets done.

2. Coaching: Once an employee has started to understand the role of the job, you can transition to coaching the team member. As a manager, you will still be very involved, coaching and helping the employee to navigate around obstacles and understand new processes as unique situations occur. Instead of always giving your employee the answer, coach them on how or why you might make the decision. This will build their skills and knowledge.

3. Supporting: In this phase, employees have the knowledge, but lack the confidence or motivation to do the job independently. You know they can do the job, but they still ask you questions for reinforcement. Does this sound like someone you know? As a leader, your role is to support the employee, by providing feedback, motivation and recognition. This will help raise their confidence in their own ability to do the job and make decisions.

4. Delegating: We all want employees we can delegate 100% of a task to. These employees both know the role and have confidence that they can perform the tasks assigned to them. Once a task is delegated to this type of employee, they understand what needs to be done and will require little supervision. As a leader, you can feel comfortable delegating to this type of employee. But remember, they didn’t start out this way. Delegation is a process of developing your team and it is up to you to provide the right level of leadership depending on your employee.

Most new managers experience some reluctance to delegation, especially as they transition to a leading role. Managers and their team members can be at all different stages of readiness for delegation, so it’s no wonder it can be a challenge to do this essential skill well. Understanding how employees travel through the competence and confidence phases of development will help you identify the proper type of support for each of your employees.

No matter your experience and comfort with delegating, meet your employees where they are and empower them to grow to stage four. They’ll appreciate your support and confidence, and you’ll appreciate being able to focus on your own tasks, knowing that your team is taking care of the rest.

Hi, I’m Amy Hedin.

I founded HumanPoint in 2007 with the mission of empowering leaders and teams to reach their potential. Although my team and our offerings have expanded, my passion for coaching is as central to my work as it was 12 years ago. Here on our blog you’ll find the advice, expertise, and insight my team and I have gained from decades of work in the executive coaching and consulting field.

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