In my last post, I wrote about having an open door policy as a Tech Lead because your priority is to keep the team productive. A side effect of interruptions is that without blocks of time to work, it can be challenging to complete tasks. Somewhat of a dilemma…
The burden of being a leader is not a light one and often it feels like we need to be the hero to swoop in and save the day. What we are left with, though, is feeling like Atlas with the weight of the world on our backs. Have you ever pushed out an important task for five full days on your to-do list because you just can’t get to it? I certainly have.
So how do we solve this problem? Delegation
One of the essential skills of an effective leader is knowing what work is most important and delegating the rest. By activating your team and assigning them responsibility, you will free up your time and empower them to deliver value to your agency.
How to Delegate
Let’s look at some steps for how you can delegate work to your team that benefits everyone.
- Let the control freak inside of you go. As a lead developer, I struggled with this a lot. I felt like every line of code needed to be crafted. Adding abstractions, refactoring legacy code, and buttoning up every feature tight. To delegate, you will have to let go of some of this control so your developers can take over. If there is a lack of skill on your team, start with small responsibilities and provide feedback. Mentoring is an investment in your team members and something you should be doing anyway. Can you delegate mentoring to a senior developer on your team?
- Establish a method for ranking task priorities. By processing incoming tasks before starting on them it will give you a chance to determine the effort, impact, and skill level required to do the job. The highest priority tasks should be those that negatively affect the company’s image, jeopardize project timelines, put the budget in danger, or impact the team’s ability to be productive. All those in lower priority categories should be assigned to others. Tasks that require lower skill and higher effort will save you a lot of time and serve as good work for the appropriate team member. When assigning tasks, provide guidance. It will be much easier to let go of work if you’ve adequately instructed the individual as to what needs to be done, how you expect it to be executed, and when it should be delivered. Don’t assume that what’s obvious to you is also obvious to them (you know what they say when you ‘assume’…).
- Try to assign work that compliments each individual’s skills and experience. The goal is to set up everyone for a good outcome and piling work on whoever has the shortest todo list isn’t a recipe for success. Consider who has done similar work in the past with positive results. Pick tasks that can challenge individuals while also not leaving them requiring extensive handholding.
- Trust your team, but verify their work. Once work is assigned, have confidence that the individual will deliver. Allow them to execute in the manner they see best. At the same time, there is no harm in checking in as a deadline approaches to make sure they aren’t stuck and that they will finish on time. Set up a system for peer review and feedback, both from you as well as other team members. Having trust in your team encourages respect and a healthy culture.
Delegating isn’t easy, especially at first. Establishing the prioritization of work is never black and white, but with practice, you’ll soon find yourself only tasked with the most impactful work for your agency and team. You’ll be far less bogged down and your team culture will be improved due to their newly found trust to execute independently.