I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that one of the greatest qualities of a leader is the ability to learn and use the art of delegation. Like so many who find themselves in charge of something, I bought into the old proverb, “if you want something done right then do it yourself!” As a leader, this can be deadly.
If you’re a Type A personality, you have a need to stay on top of all the key details of what’s happening in your business – it’s what you feel is a necessary part of being in charge. While many CEOs and executives at mid-market companies have succeeded in part due to their Type A personality traits, there’s a clear point where those traits can work against you.
The problem occurs most noticeably when there is a need for delegation.
Delegation Takes Conscious Effort
Early in my career, I wasn’t good at delegating. I preferred to do the work myself. As I became a more experienced CEO and surrounded myself with more and more capable people, I became more comfortable (although still cautious and reluctant) with delegating key tasks. My natural tendency to perform the work myself had not changed, so it was a constant, intentional effort to delegate as much as possible.
And I slowly came to realize an important lesson: a lack of delegation was actually hindering my ability to lead.
The Problem with Micromanaging
What does delegation mean?
It means giving my colleagues enough freedom to complete their work without my constant oversight and micromanagement.
Sounds simple, right? But that’s not always an easy thing for a Type A individual. We’re ambitious, organized, impatient high achievers that are focused more on the result than how we get to it. So our natural tendency is to make sure things are done the way that we think they should be done.
And that can work against our ability to lead.
It’s a Management 101 concept, but it’s very common in the mid-market. Generally nobody – especially management level people – likes to be micromanaged. Studies show that workers are happier and more productive when they’re given the autonomy to complete their work without constant, unnecessary and burdensome oversight.
When we micromanage members our team – from the front-line workers to our executive colleagues – we end up creating the perception that we’re questioning their skills, expertise and ability. They begin to resent us, and will eventually leave us for a better work environment.
If you’re a Type A with quality people on your team, rein in your natural personality tendencies and give them the space to complete their work on their own. Sometimes, that means allowing them to fail so that they can learn and improve.
This builds trust and allows them to develop their skills. They’ll be happier and more willing to follow your lead. It’s a short-term sacrifice from you that will provide long-term benefits for your career and your company.
As I’ve moved into my 40th year of work, and 25th as a CEO, I’ve also come to realize that no one looks back on their career and wishes they had done more. In every case, when interviewing retired CEOs, they tell me the single biggest thing they would have changed about their style was the understanding of how to delegate more.
Someone explained it to me this way, which really makes sense: As a leader I’m the coach; I set the strategy and call the plays, but the players have to execute.