I recently returned from maternity leave with my son. I learned many things over the past few months, but the one thing I’ll share here is that having a baby is one of the best things I have ever done for my business because it forced me to learn how to delegate, develop and let go.
There is nothing that holds a firm or practice group back more than an unwillingness to delegate and develop the people below you. When your people don’t have the opportunity to be challenged, it limits your capacity and can cause retention issues.. Even more importantly, it can mask your ability to develop a truly sustainable organization.
As the founder of my business, taking maternity leave wasn’t easy for me. Here are a few things I learned as I prepared to take my maternity leave and upon my return.
- Delegation takes a lot of time. There is a reason why there are managers in organizations. Good delegation takes time. It requires conversations and instruction; it’s not a 2-5 minute undertaking. Furthermore, you have to be available to answer questions when your people need it. Before I left for maternity leave, I delegated an amount of preparation by documenting, and asking my team to document, everything we did. This investment of time will pay off by making future training easier. And as my team learned more about what needed to be done, they became more efficient. While it takes time to think through and possibly train someone on what needs to be done, this increase in time is only short-term, and the ROI is huge.
- Delegation made me better at developing my people. The process of trying to delegate forced me to really think through and articulate what I wanted or needed someone to do. I became better at communicating what was needed so that someone else could do it. As a result, my team was able to do more than they could a year ago. They have even learned to ask better questions of me when I hand things off.
- Focus on the result, not the process. As my team took charge, I tried to focus them on the result, not following the process I would use to do something. This gave them room to own what they were doing and actually allowed them to develop faster. Delegating requires you to communicate the end result.
- The results will surprise you. I always knew I had a great team, but watching them grow and truly take ownership of something while I was out was amazing. They did an exceptional job and were so engaged in what they were doing that they asked me not to take very much back from them. How often do your employees ask you that?
We all hear how important it is to delegate and that developing your people is the future. Many firms are looking for a magic bullet, but there is none. You have to lead it and take the time to have conversations with your people. I think everyone should be forced to transition their work at least once in their career so they can learn the art of delegation. It gives you a whole new perspective on your business and practice.