If you’re not offering your people the opportunity to grow – to increase their responsibility and learn new skills – you are going to lose them.
According to a large-scale study conducted by INSEAD, millennials in the workplace care most about the opportunity for growth, meaning and relationships. They will even take a job that pays less for these opportunities.
But increasing responsibility without also delegating authority is a recipe for disaster. People feel like you’re just piling more work on them and resent it.
And simply delegating is not always the answer either. Sometimes it’s not the right thing to do. You wouldn’t expect someone to jump out of an airplane without a parachute. Yet that’s what many managers metaphorically do without realizing it. They assign responsibility and then disappear. Once there’s a splat, they jump back in – going back and forth on the over-under-management seesaw.
Before you increase responsibilities and delegate, make sure these three conditions for success are in place:
What do they want to do? Are they motivated to increase their responsibilities? Is there an area of work they are particularly interested in?
What skills are required? What do you need to do to help them develop the skills? Do they need some training? Do they need opportunity to expand their experience?
What resources do they need to do the job? How can they get access to the information they will need? Will they require financial resources? Put together a budget they can manage on their own. What support will they need from others?
7 Fail-Safe Steps to Increase Responsibility
1. Ensure expectations are clear.
Be specific, clear, and complete about the task, goals, responsibilities, constraints, what a good job looks like and how performance will be evaluated. Clarify at the beginning the amount and type of supervision you will provide and how the progress will be monitored.
2. Grant authority.
Grant the authority needed to do the job. Let all who will be affected know about the delegation.
3. Provide needed support and resources.
Provide all information that is available and relevant; pass on other information as it becomes available. Give public credit when they succeed, but deal with mistakes discretely.
4. Inform others.
Make sure everyone involved knows that you have delegated responsibility, and that this person has the authority to make decisions. If others come to you with questions, instead of answering, refer them to the person in charge.
5. Get out of the way.
Do not interfere or take the delegation back unless it is clear that corrective action is necessary. Do not supervise too closely. “Post-delegation hovering” is demoralizing and will interfere with their commitment and effectiveness.
6. Don’t take it back.
If they are struggling, be available to give advice or act as a sounding board. If they need resources, help them get what they need. But let them maintain responsibility.
7. Maintain accountability.
It should be clear that your direct report has the responsibility for seeing the job well done. But remember that the ultimate accountability remains with you.
Not limited to millennials – we ALL want and need the opportunity to grow and develop. Great article, with concise actionable steps. Thanks, Jesse!
True! Thanks, John.
Indeed. I think too many managers & leaders see developing people as someone else’s responsibility and certainly don’t invest their own time in doing so, even if they have the skills themselves. Selfish not selfless or servant leaders.
Agree, Gordon. Development is one of the primary responsibilities of managers. It can be supported by HR. But it just doesn’t work when managers believe the responsibility for development resides in HR.
Basically it boils down to drawing a line between over-management and under-management. The development curve needs to be maintained. When to be hands-on and when to be hands-off.
Thanks for weighing in, Bharat. As you point out, the key is following the development curve. If you delegate prematurely, they will founder. If you hang on too long, they will flounder. You might enjoy my post about The Bicycle Moment.
Great post Jesse, one all leaders should read, as it is about Developing people in truly giving them authority to achieve and “trusting” them to do so. Great Leaders must do exactly that, Lead not Manage. We are blessed with an abundance of Managers and a scarcity of Leaders.
Well said, Steven. In the words of Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, “You manage things; you lead people.”