I am not a big military buff. It just isn’t an interest of mine. But I remember hearing a few years ago about some missiles our military uses that have the accuracy to be fired one after the other, hitting successive targets within a building. Meaning, the first missile hits the outer door and the second enters the door and hits the next target. I don’t know much about weaponry, but that is cool.
It must make warfare much easier to be able to push a button and have your enemy blown up.
As a leader, I have a tendency to treat my coworkers and direct reports like those missiles. I point you in the right direction, push you off, and never look back. It is a fire and forget strategy.
It is definitely the easiest way to delegate, but there is one problem. Fire and forget delegation works a lot like fire and forget missiles: both of them blow stuff up.
This reflects a universal principle: it takes a lot time and effort to build and very little time and effort to destroy. As a leader, you cannot build through fire and forget. You have to build by healthy, responsible delegation.
What does that look like? I give you four principles of delegation.
- Infuse mission and vision. If you want someone to build the thing you want, they have to know to what end they are building (mission) and by what means they accomplish their end (vision). Every delegated task must be infused with the mission and the vision behind your need or desire for the task itself.
- Explain parameters. I saw a study not long ago in which children were placed in an open field with a variety of toys at their disposal. Without parameters, the children played in one little huddle in a small section of the field. When they put up a fence, the children spread out their play to cover the entirety of the fenced enclosure. Moral: most people move with confidence when parameters are set and will under perform if they have to make up boundaries as they go. Set the limits and give people room to move inside them.
- Check back, but don’t hover. All it takes to check in on a project is an open ended question; “What’s happening with that project I gave to you?” Try offering help, “can I do anything to help you?” Don’t badger someone about each of the steps they are taking unless there will be major consequences for a misstep. Allow people to do things differently than you would. Allow people to fail. Your job as a leader is to help other people grow, so let them fail gently, and build them up stronger than they were.
- Give feedback. Good managers will save their feedback until the project has been completed. The problem most managers make is that they give feedback in the process of the project. That is called micromanaging, and micromanaging is deconstructive. It deconstructs the work of the one you placed in charge. Your post project feedback is constructive. It offers people the chance to analyze their work in preparation for the next delegated task. That is where you help other grow in their leadership, which is one of the highest goals of any leader.
Use your leadership as an opportunity to build up others through healthy delegation. More construction, less missile shooting.