When implementing a delegating style of leadership, do you look for opportunities to delegate every day, or is it rather adhoc – You’ll delegate, when the moment arises? Do you even delegate at all? It’s an important facet to leadership and can bring rich rewards if done correctly.
What is a delegating style of leadership? Managers providing a delegating style of leadership share responsibility and authority with their team. Instead of trying to do everything themselves and being the person with all the answers, delegating allows team members to grow and develop their skills, whilst taking the lead on key activities and projects.
Like most things in life, there are more effective and less effective ways of doing things. The same is true when following a delegating style of leadership.
We’ll explore how you can use the Eisenhower Matrix to delegate tasks to your team and implement a delegating style of leadership as part of a daily process.
Organise and Execute
Often called the urgency–priority grid, the Eisenhower Matrix was created by Dwight Eisenhower, who was the President of the United States between 1953 and 1961.
He served as a general in the US Army and also Supreme Commander to the Allied forces in World War II as well.
Eisenhower always had to be very efficient and effective with his time. During his tenure as president, he created NASA, welcomed Alaska and Hawaii into the United States union, managed the cold war with Russia, whilst signing into law, the first major piece of civil rights legislation since the Civil War.
It’s safe to say that Eisenhower knew a thing or two about planning his day and managing his priorities.
The foundation of his efficiency was his use of the Eisenhower Matrix.
The structure of the Eisenhower Matrix
The matrix is split into four groups or quadrants, positioned on a 4 quadrant chart.
- The X axis forms the urgent to non-urgent spectrum.
- The Y axis forms the not important to important spectrum.
By splitting the graph into four quadrants, you can plan your day or week into the following areas:
- Do it! These are tasks that are high urgency and high important to you. They need to get done today or imminently, so you can achieve your goals and targets
- Schedule it! These are tasks of a high importance to you, but not urgently needed right now. You can plan them in
- Delegate it! These tasks are not of importance to you but are urgent, and need to be done imminently
- Delete it! These are of low importance and urgency to you and your goals. Get rid of them!
Here’s a great two minute video from Eisenhower, detailing the Enisenhower Matrix:
In general time management, it’s easy to see what you can do with the matrix.
For instance, those activities that are highly important to you and your goals and which are urgent, need to be completed within the next day or so.
They’re do it’s. You have to plan them into your day now, and ensure they get done, quickly.
The tasks that are important but not yet needed, are for planning them in at a later date. You don’t forget about them, but you plan them into your time management diary for tomorrow or next week, for instance.
The delegate section refers to tasks that you pushback.
These are typical things where somebody asks you for an opinion, or asks you to do something.
Most of the time, they are urgent for that person, but not you. In these instances you can ask someone else to help that person. You could even push back and coach them to fix the issues themselves.
Or, when you have planned downtime, you can help them.
The point is, you need to try to offload as many tasks within this section. They simply act as time sappers, diverting your attention from the more valuable tasks.
The delete it section is pretty self-explanatory. These are tasks and activities you get involved in, whereby they are generally seen as procrastinating activities.
They consist of checking your emails, surfing the Internet, watching TV, and so on.
Naturally you need to delete as many of these actions as possible. By doing this, you free up valuable time.
Remember, though, we all need to have downtime. We just need to plan it in around our first two major quadrants in the Eisenhower Matrix.
Using the Eisenhower Matrix for Your Delegating Leadership Style
With a subtle tweak or two, you can use the matrix to help delegate more effectively.
Here’s what I mean:
Quadrant 1 – Do It!
These are high-value tasks that support your goals and objectives – and their deadlines are imminent.
A part of a delegating leadership style is to look for opportunities to delegate projects, activities and tasks to your team members.
The flipside to delegating is that you will more than likely have to train and coach your team members through a learning curve until they can competently complete the task(s) under question.
This takes time to do.
And if an activity is of high importance and high urgency, you may not have the time to delegate and coach someone through that task.
Unless you already have a highly capable person that can do the task, or you do have a little time to dedicate to coaching someone, chances are you’ll have to get on with these activities yourself.
So, plan them into yours or your team’s calendar, depending on who can do them.
Use something like the Pomodoro technique, whereby you plan specific time slots in the day to complete them. Francescocirillo.com has a great article on how to implement the Pomodoro technique quickly and effectively.
Here’s a very simple example of time blocking, taken from the Promodoro technique.
Quadrants two and three (schedule it and delegate it) are prime contenders for delegating tasks from your to do list and onto your team’s time blocking plan. Here’s where our matrix differs a little to the original.
Quadrant 2 – High-value Delegating
I call this high-value delegating. These are often tasks that require a high level of skill and can help team members develop their value and skills in the team by learning and applying them.
They may well take some time and resource to learn, but as these activities are not urgent now, they’re often prime tasks to schedule in and assign ownership to, whilst giving them time to learn.
In other words, you can plan to delegate them, by coaching and training someone to do the activity, so they can build up their skills and experience.
Often, as a leader, what’s important to your goals and objectives, is important for your team. It makes sense to use this quadrant to plan learning opportunities in by delegating, so the team achieves its goals, and consequently you achieve yours.
For instance, it could be delegating a new project for a client. Why not get one of your rising stars to take it on, with the help and support from you?
It could be the next presentation to the management team on your team’s monthly performance. You may have another team member, who’s interested in developing into a leader in the future. Why not support them in creating the presentation and delivering it?
There are many potential tasks that you could use to delegate actions to your teams. You just need to identify them and plan them into you and your team’s time blocking system.
Quadrant 3 – Delegate It – Lower Skilled Delegation
As of the traditional matrix, this activity is normally seen as highly urgent but not important to you.
There is a great chance that the tasks within this category, could well be low skilled activities.
They could consist of filing, preparing and general administrative tasks. Tasks that the team need to do which are more administrative, and of which they need to get done.
1. Create Visual Team Tasks
Why not brainstorm these activities and assign each task a card. These cards are red on one side and green on the other.
Assign them to team members, and over the course of each day, get the team to turn them from red (not completed yet) to green (completed) when done. This way, everyone can see what’s expected of them and when these team tasks are completed.
2. Push Back A Little
The second element of this quadrant is to listen more and take on less. Rather than taking notes when the next person describes their latest problem, push back. Listen and ask what they could do next to help improve the situation.
- What’s preventing them right now? what obstacles are in their way?
- What’s the next step to try – What’s the next action to take, based on the problem they’ve highlighted?
- When can you go and see if it’s worked? Give them the empowerment to try the idea, so you can discuss how it’s working
These are perfectly legitimate coaching questions that turn the conversation onto the individual and empowers them to make improvements. You simply act as a soundboard to help them reflect on the problem at hand (instead of absorbing more tasks to get through and trying to be the oracle).
Quadrant 4 – Delete It!
You may now have freed up a bit more of your time. That doesn’t mean that you can fill it with low priority and low urgent (quadrant 4) tasks. That’s just procrastinating.
One of your main roles in leadership and management is to develop your team and each individual’s capabilities. You need to delegate and empower them to take on new challenges and learn from experience – and to do it continuously.
If you have more time on your hands by deleting quadrant 4 activities, spend it in quadrants one, two and three, coaching your team to success.
The great thing about the Eisenhower matrix is that you can:
- Plan your delegation opportunities and time management into a week’s worth of activities
- Track them daily. This gives you the chance to look for opportunities to delegate menial tasks as well as good learning opportunities, too.
Delegating Style of Leadership – A Simple Planner
Here is an example and template you can use to plan your week ahead, focusing on:
- What your goals and targets are this week or month ahead
- Assign low level delegation tasks
- Assign higher skilled delegation opportunities
- Plan your diary to suit the Do-its for you and your team
You can use a team board to show who has been allocated what delegation task this week, similar to the diagram below:
Steps to Get Started Using a Delegating Style of Leadership and the Eisenhower Matrix
Step 1. Ensure Your Team is Ready for the Responsibility
Discuss the Eisenhower matrix with your team.
If you haven’t done already, sit down with each team member and agree a development plan. Use this to identify objectives of each individual, for the future.
Try to identify what tasks and skills required in the team could benefit them in their personal role and for their future progression.
For instance, Sarah is a key member of the team who has an aspiration for public speaking. You could plan future opportunities to create presentations and deliver them, under your guidance.
Step 2. Plan your week ahead
Highlight tasks that are in quadrants one, two and three, that you could delegate to your team members.
Remember, quadrants one and two are normally high skilled, career enhancing activities. Look for opportunities to delegate from these categories, where you can add real value.
For the quadrant three activities, try to level out the tasks across the team. and track them using the team task board.
Step 3. For each task, be specific on the deadline and the outcomes
Another skill in your leadership repertoire is good, effective communication.
Before walking away, ensure that everyone who has tasks assigned, know exactly what they have to do and by when.
Agree how you will measure each outcome and what success looks like. This is important, so both parties can understand if the task is done well enough and to expectations.
For instance, a simple filing task outcome may be as follows:
File all customer records from the vector project by end of the week. All data must be filed in customer order.
Step 4. Ensure you provide support to your team.
When assigning tasks, look to provide support and direction when they need it. Ensure you provide enough training for tasks that are complicated and require a lot more coaching. Never walk away and let them get on with things, if their skills and experience are limited.
Check in regularly and agree how often you discuss updates.
In general, move away from ‘trying to do it all’ management style, to a delegating style of leadership. Be a servant leader and support your team where they need your help. Use the Situational Leadership Model to help you support and coach your team to success.
Things to Look Out For When Delegating your Quadrant of Tasks
Good delegating is about providing clarity of tasks that need completing, and using it to develop your people.
If you are merely dumping low skilled tasks all the time, you’ll lose trust in the process that you’re creating. Be fair with delegating and mix quadrant 1 and 2 activities with 3.
The more you can learn to delegate, the more time you get back to investing in your team and developing skills, better relationships and improved output.