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Three Delegation Skills to Get Your New Hires Contributing Right Away
After weeks — or maybe even months — of sifting through candidates, methodically hosting interview after interview, and finally narrowing your search down to the one right person, you’ve found your new teammate. Hooray! But a new hire isn't immediately ready to contribute to the team — they'll need some support to get them up to speed.
So how do you make the most of your new employee, the one you spent so much time and energy hiring? If you’re like most leaders, you have a list of tasks you can’t wait to delegate to the new employee. But before you start offloading everything at a breakneck pace, consider these three delegation techniques you can apply to give you and your new hire the best chance of success.
The Leverage Principle
As a team leader, when you’re working with your cohorts, you want to keep the Leverage Principle in mind. The Leverage Principle is this: for every hour you work with an employee to delegate a task to them, you’ll multiply the amount of time you get back. The amount of time will vary based on the task and the person’s skill, and how often that task needs to be done.
If you can spend an hour explaining a task that would normally take you an hour to do yourself, it doesn’t seem like that great a trade. A lot of times, leaders will just tell themselves that if it only takes an hour, they might as well do it themselves. If you can train an employee to do that same task — even if it takes longer than an hour that first time — you’ll gain way more than an hour of your time back. And if that hour you spend once means you save that hour of work for yourself each week… that’s when you start to reap benefits. Especially when you can apply your hour to work only you can do — the high-value, best work that’s in your GATES and has the most impact.
Engine vs. Caboose
Often when we’re delegating projects, we’ll think we’re telling teammates that they need to be the engine of the project, when really they should be the caboose. If we’re delegating a project to a new employee, they may not have the power they need to push that project forward: they may not have the experience managing a project of that type, or they may not know all the important context that’s necessary for the project to be successful. In those cases, it’s better for you as the leader to be that engine — to get things started down the right track, and picking up steam. Once the project is rolling, your teammate can follow after your initial push, and keep the train running.
Sometimes, though, it’s quite the opposite. A research task is a good example of a project where a new teammate might be the perfect person to take the engine position and get the project started and moving. Then, when they come to you with their findings, you can be the caboose: reviewing the findings, and using that information to move the larger project forward.
Pro tip: The more competency a teammate has, and the better you’ve articulated what the end goal should look like, the more you can be in the position of the caboose.
The Three Levels of Delegation
I divided delegation into three levels: task, project, and responsibility. Here’s an example of each:
Task Level: Schedule a one-off call with a client
Project Level: Schedule all calls with a client for the duration of the project
Responsibility Level: Handle all scheduling completely
The stronger your relationship with and understanding of the skill sets of the teammates you’re delegating tasks to, the more you can comfortably shift upward to responsibility delegation. With a newer teammate, though, you’ll want to delegate mostly tasks at the beginning, to build competency and context before moving them up to projects. Just handing them a project is risky: they may not know how to chunk it down, or consider all the details, or pull everything together and see it through to the finish in the same way you, or a more experienced teammate, would.
When figuring out how to parse out your inflow of stuff to do, you may be tempted to just keep the newer teammates with the tasks, and the more experienced members with the projects. Instead, think about how to parse a project so that a more experienced teammate can help the newer teammate learn project or responsibility management. This will also provide the experienced teammate the opportunity to learn new skills themselves: in training, reviewing others’ work, and giving actionable feedback.
Building Success into Your Team, One Hire at a Time
The only thing worse than hiring a new teammate who doesn’t end up being a great fit is hiring an amazing person who wasn’t given the opportunity to learn, grow, and take on progressively more complex tasks and projects that allow their skills to shine through, and instead, they struggle, falter, and leave. Taking the time to set up your new teammates for success benefits everyone. Delegating effectively is one of the most important skills a team leader can master, for themselves and their team.