Delegation and Trust

In our last post about delegation, we spoke about it in the light of “letting go to allow growth” and this cannot be overemphasized. The concern was more around competency and the risk of allowing others ‘experiment’ to have the necessary experience to become experts as you are. In this post, we want to shift the focus from competence because we know that is not the only reason why people find it difficult to delegate. So, let’s talk about Trust.

To trust someone is to believe that such person is honest and sincere and will not deliberately do anything to harm you or sabotage the entrusted task. You rely on the person to do the right thing and you feel safe doing so. Trust is important if delegation is to happen. Without trust, there are the tendencies to micromanage, blame and think of errors as intended sabotage. So how can you learn to trust the people you delegate to:

Get Personal: Being concerned about individuals, rather than the work they do for you, helps you connect with them and learn to trust them (or not). Consequentially, when people know that you are genuinely concerned about them, it increases their level of loyalty towards you. So, getting personal here simply means showing interest in the person and not just the work output.

Find Common Ground: This connects to the previous and next point. As you show interest in an individual, you get to know their interests and you can easily find things you share in common. Things you have in common are likely to help you bond and make you naturally willing to delegate assignments that fit their journey

Goal Alignment: People have personal goals. Assigning them tasks that draw them closer to achieving their goal makes it easier to trust them to give in their best.

Choose Questions over Assumption: Many things can challenge your perception of a person but you must learn to ask questions rather than make assumptions. Do not be swayed by baseless/ unconfirmed hypothesis or hearsays. Learn to give people the benefit of a doubt, a chance to explain their misgives and even when they make mistakes be willing to guide them by asking soul searching questions that helps them decide the things they want to change or keep constant.

Clear Communication: This also speaks to not making assumptions that someone should know what needs to be done. It’s great to give individuals you are leading or mentoring a chance to figure things out for themselves, but it is not necessary to make every task have a ‘maze’ package.

To avoid avoidable frustrations, it is best to tell to the letter what needs to be done. Wait! Are you thinking, “no way, that doesn’t help the person to learn not to be spoon-fed”? Yes, you are actually correct. The “tell to the letter” approach will only avoid frustrations in the short-run, but as time goes on, one starts to wonder, “why is this person being paid so much if he/she is not going to apply his mind to anything”.

Instead, it is good practice to share the goals of/expectations for the task and then ask the prospective Delegatee to propose a road map to attaining the goals and meeting the expectations. When the person shares his/her ideas, help fill the gap (if any) by asking thought-provoking questions. In any instance where you have to spell out what is required, have the Delegatee reiterate his/her understanding of what you have shared and thoughts on it. Afterall, communication is a two-way thing.

Be willing to give more than one chance: You must have heard “to err is human”. Even if you haven’t, here you go “to err is human, to forgive is divine”. People sometimes make mistakes and preparing your mind for such possibility is different from not trusting. It is choosing to trust with allowance for corrections. Giving only one chance to a Delegatee is a complete set-up.

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