Strategy Versus Tactics: The Case for Delegating By: Eileen Marshall
Many of those in leadership positions, whether middle-management, team leader or senior executive, know they should be delegating tasks – probably more than they already do. Do any of the following "reasons” sound familiar?
"I just can’t seem to let this task go!”
"I am worried this will fall off the radar.”
"I don’t really trust anyone else to get this done.”
"This is really complicated and would take more time to explain than to just do it myself.”
We can self-talk our way out of delegating to others - and justify it every step of the way! But if we continue to hold on to tasks we could delegate, we are not only holding ourselves back from reaching our full potential, we are holding our team back from reaching their full potential.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to discern what tasks are ripe for delegation and reflects that internal struggle we experience between the work that could be done and the work that should be done. If we review our to-do list, we can start to categorize each item as either a strategic task - working ON the long-term goals of the organization - and tactical work – working ON the tasks that implement that vision.
Examples of a set of tactical tasks includes the daily work surrounding project management, product development, service delivery, preparing and reviewing financial reports, keeping facilities maintained, training and supporting employees, etc. Strategic tasks focus on the future – those improvements, innovations, growth planning and succession planning efforts that support the overall mission of the organization.
In short, strategic tasks are the work we do to set the course and direction, and tactical tasks are the "turns” we take to follow the course. It would follow that the more effort and energy expended on the strategic tasks, the more effective, efficient, and productive the resulting tactical tasks.
After reviewing our to-do list, we need to start collecting data. Just like a diet – start tracking everything we spend time on– because we can’t change what we don’t know, and we don’t know what we don’t measure. Pretty quickly, those tactical tasks we just can’t let go of will equate to real time we are losing – resources we are wasting.
Still not sold? Here are some other benefits of delegation:
- Lower Stress! By not delegating, we place a heavy burden on ourselves – we can become so overwhelmed that our functioning and our health suffer. Delegating tactical work can relieve and return more time to us.
- Build Communication Skills! The process of delegating can break down the sense of hierarchy between us and our team. Explaining tasks and sharing ideas together will lessen the distance among the team’s workers and help continue building trust and respect overall.
- Efficiency! Effective delegation allows us to maximize time and resources, as it decreases delays in achieving tasks. Effective delegation should be seen as an investment not only in our team, but also in the long-term health and success of the organization.
- Support Mission! When we delegate, we are required to do the front-work of identifying and putting to paper those clear goals and milestones – the strategic plan - in support of the mission, from which those tactical tasks then spring.
- Process Streamlining! If we truly invest the time in our strategic tasks – a comprehensive strategic plan supporting the mission – the tactical tasks and the steps to achieve each goal and milestone will be clearly defined and focused. The more we can delegate, the better the plan, the more efficient the task accomplishment – and all comes full circle.
"But how do I get my team onboard when I am giving them more to do?” Our employees want to grow, so integrate a development plan into an employee’s Individual Development Plan (IDP) so everyone is on board with how (certain types of) tasks will be delegated to support the employee’s continued professional advancement.
Also, delegating is less about giving up responsibility, and more about allowing others to lead. That doesn’t exempt us from speaking up when we see things getting off track, but it does mean letting the employee guide the ship as much as possible.
ASK A MENTOR
Talk to your mentor about his/her experience with delegating. Ask them to help you identify different approaches to delegation, and how to best approach our teams to start this conversation.
What are some roadblocks/best practices you have experienced in delegating to direct reports or other team members?
What are some strategies for incorporating the transfer of a task to another team member/direct report efficiently?
How do I give/receive feedback when a particular delegated task is not meeting the proposed target?
How do you stay connected without micro-managing?