Struggling to delegate work in a team is dangerous. If you’re a manager, or an individual contributor to a manager, who struggles to delegate work properly, read this.
Why delegation of work is crucial
It shouldn’t be necessary to underline this, but delegating work is one of the most crucial tasks for a team lead or manager. Not delegating work basically means setting yourself up as the bottleneck within your team and organization. This makes it really difficult to scale in any way.
Why are you not delegating work?
The team at Atlassian has written a great post about delegation, identifying the reasons you’re not delegating enough work and methods to overcome it. All aspects of this post can be translated to working with OKRs. The key reasons you’re not delegating are:
You’re unsure if team members can solve the specific task
You have a good idea of the ideal solution
You could easily put in a few more hours and solve it yourself
You really like the work of the specific task
Chances are that you fit into one of these boxes. If you do, and still don’t think delegation is what you should do, then scroll down to the “when delegation is not an option” section.
How to delegate work when using OKRs
The OKR framework is not a tool used for delegation. But delegation is definitely required to succeed with OKRs. Here’s why.
One key aspect of great OKRs is that they’re set in collaboration with the team. But it’s the team who’s responsible for achieving the objectives.
Setting the objectives in collaboration ensures they everyone gets heard and that the team is on the same page. It also ensures that team members will take ownership of the OKRs. Before delegating OKRs to team members, there are a few things that need to be in place.
Defining the important aspects of any successful OKR implementation
One of the most important things to have in place before getting started with OKRs is a company strategy. If you don’t have a strategy, it’s going to be very difficult to include employees in the collaboration of defining your OKRs. They simply don’t know where to aim their efforts.
The strategy doesn’t necessarily need to be looking 3-5 years ahead. But it needs to set the direction for at least the next couple of OKR cycles. The bigger the company, the longer the strategy needs to look ahead to avoid too much confusion and misdirection from team leads.
There’s a lot more to getting started with OKRs, which is why we created an OKR checklist you can also check out.
Workshop: defining the OKRs as a team
Next up is the work of defining the OKRs. A good idea is to host a small workshop ahead of the coming cycle. This ensures people hit the ground running when the new cycle starts.
During the workshop, the team should start by looking at the strategy. Where do we want to go? How does our team contribute to the company getting there? How do measure if we’ve gotten there or not?
Based on the answers to these questions, alongside a long list of initiatives you’ve brainstormed, you should be able to relatively simple define the team focus for the next cycle.
If you need inspiration on how to formulate the OKRs, head over to our examples page where we’ve collected hundreds of different OKR examples.
Delegating OKRs to individual contributors
If you’re a small team, the team lead should always be the one accountable for achieving the objectives. But it’s not a bad idea to delegate responsibility (notice the difference) to team members.
Making sure team members can run the OKR status meetings, brief other team members on progress, etc. will make them feel a lot more involved and committed to the work.
This will not only free up your time, but it will also enable you to only participate when team members need input or ideas for how they might go about their efforts of achieving the objectives.
If they try and fail, they’ll also be much more open to input from you without feeling like you’re deciding what to do.
When delegation is not an option
If you’ve read the sections above and still don’t think you’re ready to delegate work, here’s the hard truth:
Not delegating will make people quit their jobs working for you (eventually)
Not delegating will increase your chances of being stressed (you’re the bottleneck)
Not delegating means you’ve hired too expensive (you could’ve settled with assistants)
Not delegating will make higher management reconsider your employment (because of all the above)
Delegating should be fun, empowering, and joyful to watch as a leader. It should spark joy to see individual contributors take responsibility and run with it.
To sum up, delegating is important when organizations scale and just in general. It’s a win-win situation that, unfortunately, too few realize the potential impact of.