4 Words to Change the Way You Delegate to Your Team
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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
You’ve got a new project that you’d like to assign to someone on your team. You brief them on the background, what you’re looking for, and send them on their way…
…but that’s not the end of the story.
You end up answering so many questions about the project—what needs to get done, how it should get done—that you fall back into the old entrepreneurial trap: believing this all would have gone better if, instead of delegating, you’d just done it yourself.
You thought you were lobbing a baseball to your team member—but you were actually throwing a boomerang.
The upside? It doesn’t have to be this way, of course.
Part of the reason your team keeps coming back to you is…you. One way or another, you’ve created a behavioral pattern where they look to you for the answers.
It’s often necessary when you’re just starting out—when you’re in the phase of growth where your team looks like a leader and a bunch of helpers. You have all the context, the client relationships, the expertise.
But as you grow, you want to train your team to make decisions without you.
And I’ve got four little words that will nudge your team in the right direction—and help you stop throwing boomerangs for good.
I. Have. No. Idea.
The next time you’re asked about something that you don’t know the answer to or isn’t in your purview anymore, calmly look your team member in the eye and sincerely tell them, “I have no idea.”
Because the truth is: if you’re focused on the right things as a CEO, you probably DON’T have any idea how to apply for that certification, or why the sales projections seem off, or which SaaS platform your team should migrate to.
Now, for this to work, it cannot be snarky—ever. It’s not about withholding from your team, but it is about restraining yourself from jumping in to solve all the problems.
I’m also assuming a few other things are in place inside your business:
• You have clear org structure. If you’re not the right person to ask, your team needs to be able to figure out who is.
• You’ve provided the relevant background and/or training. If someone is taking on a new role, they need to be trained and should have process documentation to help them learn.
• You won’t undercut them by micromanaging. Tell employees explicitly that they are empowered to make decisions to deliver on your outcomes. They might screw up as they learn or do things differently than the way you would. Learn to live with it.
Keep in mind that if your team is used to looking to you for answers, they’ll be uncomfortable at first. Be patient. Everyone will get better at this with time.
Also remember that if you’re growing quickly, you may be asking a team member to stretch in order to deliver for you. You have no idea. They might have no idea, either! Recognize and acknowledge when that’s the case, and remember you’re both playing for the same team.