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Motivate through delegation

So the All Blacks will face their nemesis, France, in the quarter finals of the Rugby World Cup. Who says history never repeats… they will play in Cardiff, possibly with the same referee from ‘that’ game in 2007 (although 4 million people will be praying for a different result this time).  Do you think the All Blacks will lack motivation? Me neither.

One of the most frequently asked questions during our high performing team leadership sessions is ‘How do I motivate my team?’. These days most leaders know that they cannot ‘make someone be motivated’ and that their role is to provide an environment that is motivating while managing their team-members in ways that match their motivational drivers. Whichever way you come at it, leaders still need to know what they can do to raise the motivation levels of their team.

Many people think that motivating their team comes during inspirational speeches or by cheerleader type behaviour which many managers don’t feel they can do. Others think that motivation is achieved by a bonus or by a raise and depend on that even in the face of evidence that it doesn’t increase motivation.

Most people walk past the motivational effects of good day to day management and in particular something that a good leader should be doing well regularly, and that is delegation.

Motigation works

Delegation is often poorly used or badly done in many organisations. In coaching conversations we hear reasons not to delegate. Many executive coachees list ‘time management’ as one of their coaching needs and nine times out of ten it is not time management but poor delegation or an unwillingness to delegate. From ‘it’s quicker to do it myself’ to ‘he can’t do it as well as me’ to ‘my people are too busy’ we hear managers justifying why they hold on to things themselves.

But let’s assume you do delegate and do it well. Do you delegate to motivate? Are you a motigater?

Let’s look at some of the ways that good delegation can motivate.

  • Delegation says, ‘I believe in you’. If you delegate well you are saying ‘I think you can do this’, ‘you may not have done this before but looking at your performance I think you are capable of this’. How motivating is it to hear your boss say that?
  • Delegation says, ‘I trust you’. If you delegate properly (you know giving accountability and responsibility) you are saying, ‘I trust you to deliver on this’. How motivating is it to hear your boss say that?
  • Delegation says, ‘I support your growth’. Do you know the career aspirations of your direct reports? Delegating is a way of giving them experience of the kind of skills and knowledge they will need to get their next promotion. It may also show you whether they are likely to be up for that before you give them the role. By saying, ‘I think that doing this may tick that box on your PDP’ you are clearly supporting their growth in a tangible way. How motivating is it to hear your boss say that?
  • Delegation says, ‘I am interested’. On a very simple level if you have thought about someone to take on a task or to lead a project or take responsibility for something then you have thought about them. How motivating is it to know that your boss actually thinks about you?

Of course if you are delegating to get things off your desk or because no-one else wants to do it or because you want to play more golfor  then your motivation for delegating will soon be obvious and of course that will have the opposite effect. You will be de-motigating.

But I am sure you wouldn’t do that if you are in touch with your leadership values!

So take a look at our list as a starting point towards good, well thought out, motigation as another way of getting more traction for you, your team and your direct reports.


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