Essential questions for effective delegation
Frustrated, he left the meeting feeling like the last hour was spent spinning wheels again and they were no closer to getting the solution and results. After several meetings with the IT Manager and his team members, the leader was at a loss at how to solve the problem and get the IT Manager to deliver the results he needed. My client was entrenched in owning the IT Manager’s issues rather than holding the him accountable to delivering on the agreed commitments and results. He was trying to solve the IT Managers issues and found himself in a series of technical meetings between IT and his team trying to bridge the gap and spending hours of time with weeks slipping by. When he came to talk with me about the issue, he started digging into the depth of the technical issues and talking about backup scripts and algorithms. I asked him, “What is the problem you’re trying to solve”. Again, he told me about the issues the IT Manager needed to solve but not his own problem that the IT manager committed to fixing for him. My client lost sight of the big picture, what the accountability was, and who was accountable to whom. He got sucked into reacting to the fires that showed up in the process and trying to understand and become an expert in figuring out the path forward rather than coaching those around him to think through their own issues.
This is a common issue for leaders who fail to get clear commitments, maintain boundaries of responsibility or coach for accountability. Instead, they end up owning the problem that they’ve tried to delegate to someone else. How they end up owning the problem is often the result of a roadblock or other unanticipated issue that can’t easily be solved. It requires critical thinking, innovation or strengthening relationships and sometimes all three.
To work through this process, we identified essential questions to coach the IT Manager through their critical thinking and get a clear commitment. Those questions were:
- Articulate the problem you need solved and the impact it’s having on you, your team and/or the organization.
- What is the goal? Where are you starting from?
- What does the gap look like? What needs to happen to close the gap?
- What are the timelines? What might get in the way? What support do you need?
- What commitments are you willing to make? How do you want me to hold you accountable?
By shifting to these questions, my client moved from several hour long meetings with the IT Manager that yielded more confusion to a 30 minute conversation that uncovered the real issues, identified a path forward, and gained commitment from the IT Manager with clear deliverables and timelines.