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.
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.
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.