One of my biggest mistakes as a newsroom leader happened as I was cultivating the talent of a rising star. I delegated so much glamour work and so little grunt work that it actually hurt the journalist — and the team. The ego and entitlement that repeated glamour work begets isn’t just ugly; it reinforces the systemic biases in our newsrooms.

Still, I have to add a caveat before we dig into this week’s challenge: Research shows women and people of color are more likely to get housework-type assignments than to get assigned to glamour work. So delegating is about being balanced as well as intentional. Consider what type of work you are handing off, to whom and when, because there are lessons to be learned when we’re working from the weeds and from the clouds. We need both perspectives and types of experience to develop our self-awareness and own our contributions as news leaders.

The Challenge:

You get the work done faster. You question the competence of others but not of yourself. You enjoy the task and want to own it. Your way is the only — or best — way. You don’t want to come off as bossy, too assertive or insensitive*. You don’t want to pile onto your team’s plate.

*This is an acute problem of women and people of color in all industries, not just media. Y’all, we’ve got to stop acting small.

The challenges of not delegating go hand in hand with the consequences. When you hold on to all the responsibility, you set yourself up to fail because: You’re overwhelmed. You’re unavailable to your team. Your team gets directed instead of coached. Your stars aren’t stretched. Your work feels whack-a-mole and never-ending. You live in a state of urgency, preventing important work from getting done. You see engagement dimming and burnout around the bend.

Managing tasks, projects and assignments off your plate can feel icky — especially in depleted news organizations — so we either don’t do it at all, or we do it and over-regulate, or we do it and become inaccessible. It’s hard finding the juicy middle that is delegation on the spectrum of micromanagement to abdication.

The Assignment: Delegate till it hurts

We delegate effectively when we give appropriate levels of direction and expectation alongside autonomy and trust, and we delegate intentionally when we consider our work, our people, our communication and our goals. Which is why this week’s Leadership Reset assignment isn’t going to help only you — it’s intended to help everyone.

When you effectively transfer authority through delegation, you’re communicating how much you value and trust someone. And this trust and value has been shown to have a deeper impact on employee engagement and retention than salary.

Make it happen

To delegate on purpose, you need to be proactive with — and not reactive to — the things on your plate. How might some of these responsibilities be the level-up someone on your team needs for their future?

The following is a checklist for delegation. Complete each step before moving on to the next.

● Brag a little or a lot: What are you doing that you’re the best at? What are you doing that you’re good or okay at? Make a list. Be as objective as possible. ● An informal time audit: Choose a “normal” week on the job. Examine your calendar, your DMs, your email correspondence and your recollection. Make a list of things you do in a typical week. ● Create the perfect day: Now think about your actual job. Why were you hired? What work did you think you’d be doing? What do you want to be doing but you keep putting off? ● Codify your time audit: What things are keeping you from doing more of what you’re the best at? What is taking up your time? ● Underline the things keeping you from what you’re best at ● Star ⭐ the things others can do (and would be great at) if not for lack of consistency ● Highlight the things you want to (and should be) spending your time on but aren’t ● Name your team: Those who report to you or work closely with you should be on this list – whether there is a formal reporting relationship or not. Note a strength of each team member and an opportunity for each to grow this year. ● Ask yourself: How might the tasks, projects and responsibilities that take me away from my most valuable contributions be an opportunity for someone else to grow in their role? ● Connect the dots: Think through your underlined and starred items in your time audit. Be thoughtful as you jot down a name next to the appropriate items. You won’t immediately delegate every task in your list.

Take it further

If you like your delegation roadmap, I encourage you to share it with your direct manager for feedback. You’re looking to get support for removing things from your plate, and getting your manager’s perspective on the work will be helpful for you and for those you’re delegating to.

You’ll also be able to collaborate on the “why.” Together, y’all should revisit part 3 of API’s Leadership Reset series: Translate your message. This will help you share what you’re delegating and why in a way that echoes what you’ve heard from your direct reports about how they want to grow and what they want to be doing in the future.

View the next installment here.

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