August 17, 2022

How to Delegate Part 1

I'm Melissa
I'm a Career and Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech. I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.
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Delegation is an important skill for every level. Whether you’re delegating to your team or delegating to peers or on a project or product based team. With staff shortages and tight deadlines, you might be tempted to just roll up your sleeves and take on the work but in this episode, you’re going to learn how to delegate effectively so you can maintain a healthy workload and elevate your skills.

This topic is in 2 parts. Today’s episode is focused on delegating to peers or in a matrix environment.  Part 2 will be released later August 31st and will be specific to delegating to your direct reports.

What You’ll Learn

How to delegate to peers or in a matrix environment in 5 simple steps

What to do when you’re short staffed but things need to get done

How to lead others without direct authority

Featured in This Episode

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Welcome to Navigating Your Career, the only podcast that blends personal development, professional skills and psychology to help you get happy at work and live the life you want. If you want to stop feeling stuck and start are feeling better, this is the place for you. I’m your host, Melissa Lawrence. Let’s get started.

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. I am so happy that you were here with me today. And we are on episode 99. Can you believe it? Next week is going to be the 100th episode of Navigating A Career.

Which, fun fact when I started this podcast, it was named Career Women Becoming Fearless. But after a couple of months, I changed it because although I think a lot of the work I do is helping you do things that are scary, overcoming doubt, fear, and building confidence to do the big things you want for yourself. I wanted the title to be more inclusive. I wanted to be clear that regardless of how you identify, you are welcome here. So next week, Wednesday, be on the lookout for this special 100th episode.

I’m going to be giving away some goodies to help get you in the celebration mode and to celebrate the progress of this show. I’m also going to share with you my own journey of what it took for me to put this podcast into the world. So you can see a little bit of the behind the scenes of even me as a coach, what goes through my mind when I do those big scary things. So it’s going to be a really fun episode. Now, let’s get into the topic of the day, a topic that has come up a lot in my one on one coaching sessions lately, and that is how to effectively delegate.

And this is applicable if you are in a leadership or people management position or if you are an individual contributor. Because the industry works in a really heavily matrix environment and there are project teams and product teams. And regardless of the role that you are in, you are likely at some point going to be delegating work to others. And this is a big topic. And so I’m going to actually break this up into two different episodes.

So this week is going to be part one and part two is going to be in a couple of weeks after our 100th episode. And why am I talking about this? Not just because my clients have been struggling with this lately, but it’s a skill that everyone needs. Now, does this sound like you? You take on more work than you can handle.

You raise your hand to get something done because you tell yourself someone has to do it and no one else is volunteering. You would rather do something yourself because let’s just be real, you’ll get it done right? Other people struggle with timelines and there isn’t room for error. And so you just jump in because you want to get it done and you want to do what’s best for the company and for the team. Now, do any of those things ring about?

If so, you are not alone. This is something that so many people struggle with sometimes without even knowing it. It’s also something you can find yourself being effective at with certain companies or times in your career and then suddenly realize you’re swamped and almost forgot that you had this skill in your little toolkit and you just start taking on all of that work and overworking yourself. And so because this is such a big topic and the steps are going to be a little bit different, if you’re delegating to someone you have authority over, as in you’re the manager of that team, or if you’re delegating to appear or in a matrix environment which can occur at any level. So I’m going to cover both in two episodes so that this is really easily digestible and not too overwhelming.

So in today’s episode, we’re going to focus on delegating to appear or in a matrix. So this is again going to apply to you regardless of your role, if you’re entry level or a director or above. And I’m going to outline some steps to follow. When you’re working in a matrix or team environment and you don’t have direct authority over the person doing the work, but you find yourself doing work outside your scope. So in those situations where you’re working on a project or product team and this isn’t even part of your job, but you’re just raising your hand or volunteering or someone asked you to do it because you have the skill and capability, but it’s really not your job to do it.

Now you’re running out of hours in the day and you’re just overburdened. We’re going to talk about how to deal with that. So we are going to go over steps to delegate in this type of matrix, peer to peer environment or project product team based environment and what to do at each step along the way. So the first step is going to be to identify who the responsible person is. So the first step may seem like a no brainer.

You may have heard that and think, okay, come on Melissa, identify who the responsible person is. That’s it. But no, that’s not it. There are four steps we’re going to talk about, but that is the first step. So I want you to sit back and really think about this one.

Because sometimes we’re so quick to raise our hand to do what we think will get the task done quickly, to assume there isn’t anyone else to do it. But at the end of the day, there is a responsible person or group. And if it isn’t you, then ask yourself, who is that person? Is it someone on your team or someone in another department or even site? When I asked this question to a client recently.

She said, well, it would be this other department, but they’re short staff too. Okay, well then at least you have that information and you get to decide. Do you want to keep taking on other people’s responsibilities or do you want to take a different action? For example, you could take on this task this time, but reach out to the head of the other group and say, listen, I know you’re short staffed, happy to take this on this time, but is there someone on your team that I can train to take this on next time it comes up? But you can’t take that action or any action like that if you don’t know who is actually responsible.

And so if you don’t know if you’re thinking, well, I don’t know who this maybe this would be a project manager, but we don’t have a project management group, or you just don’t think that person exists, then ask someone who would know, because this company that you work for has decided that this type of work needs to get done. And if this is not part of your typical day to day responsibilities, if you don’t say anything, you’ll never get the head count to take on who really should be doing this type of work. So ask someone who would know, ask your manager, ask someone in another department that is close to this type of work. And so I’m going to get into some more actions you can take. But this very first step is really going to be to know who is really responsible.

Now, the second step is to set up time to discuss roles and responsibilities with the responsible person or department or group. So once you know who is responsible, I suggest setting up time with that person or group to discuss roles and responsibilities. Sometimes there is a misconception about who is responsible for what. For example, maybe someone in another group used to do this task, but they left and no longer work with the company. And someone knew started and they didn’t know that they were supposed to do that task until they never did it.

In another example from a client, they had a project management group that was responsible for a lot of the administrative management of the projects, but they were short on project managers. So what ended up happening is those high achievers would take on work without even questioning it because they just thought, we don’t have the staff. And I’m not saying you can’t jump in and help. There is some benefit to doing things that aren’t technically your job to do. But if you are overworked or stretched and you find yourself taking on work that is outside your scope and you want to stop doing it, that is what this framework is for.

So after you know who is responsible, then you want to get together to have an open conversation about responsibilities. Then you can intentionally negotiate and decide who does what and the why behind it. Now, the third step is to clarify expectations. Once you have the roles and responsibilities established, you want to clarify what you expect and what they expect of you. Is there a timeline associated with this work?

Is there an expectation around communication? Are there updates needed? If so, to whom and when? Don’t assume the person is going to do the work exactly as you have. I know that’s where a lot of my clients get frustrated.

I’m guilty of that too. We have high standards for the work that we do. We have specific ways we do things. And when other people don’t operate the way we would like them to, it’s very frustrating, right? So you want to have an open conversation around expectations and not assume that when someone else is going to be taking on a task that maybe you’ve been jumping in to do, that it’s going to be done the way that you think it should be done or the way that you have done it or would do it.

Because this is something that can cause conflict or frustration really easily. Because like I said, we have our own standards for how work should be done. And sometimes we assume others know that standard or work to that standard. So communicate upfront what the expectations are when you’re delegating. Now, the next step is to teach them to fish if needed.

So sometimes when you’re looking to delegate work to others, you have to show them or teach them what to do. Although this can seem like more work in the beginning because it is. Let’s be real. You’re looking at long term gains. If you spend some time teaching someone now, then once they are trained, you may never have to do that task again.

Or maybe you’re just a backup. I see this being more of a struggle with my clients who are high achievers, who go to that Director and beyond level, where they really start getting into these leadership roles and they’re used to being in the work getting things done, and not used to delegating. So when they see they can do it faster and better, they just keep doing it. But when you have increased responsibility and you’re at that director or leadership level or you’re looking to get to that level, this is really a skill to learn and practice. You have to practice.

You have to practice letting go of your views of perfection and enabling others to learn and take on your responsibilities or the responsibilities that you shouldn’t be doing anymore. Okay, so the last step is to Escalate as needed. So you’ve identified who’s responsible. You’ve agreed on roles and responsibilities. You’ve set expectations.

You’ve taught the person to fish. The last step is going to be to Escalate if needed. Hopefully you don’t have to use this one, but realistically, you will at some point in your career. If expectations haven’t been met first, try to resolve on your own. Understand where things went wrong.

But let’s say this is something in another group that you need. It’s their responsibility. They aren’t following through. You tried to follow up and nothing is working to get it done. Don’t just take it back and decide that you need to do it.

Escalate it. Talk to your boss, have a meeting with the person and their boss if needed. But problem solve to keep the responsibility where it belongs because you taking it back isn’t going to solve anything. I promise that. This might not be fun, but learning to do this skill effectively will take you much further in your career than piling the work on yourself over and over.

That isn’t going to be sustainable as you grow and get to those higher levels in your career. And honestly, it isn’t great for your wellbeing. So those are the five steps to delegating to appear or in a matrix environment. Identify who is responsible, set roles and responsibilities, clarify expectations, teach them to fish and escalate as needed. I can’t wait for you to give them a try.

Share your takeaways and how they worked by tagging me in a post on social media or sending me a message. And if you enjoyed this episode or enjoyed the podcast in general, we are on episode 99. Consider leaving me a podcast review wherever you get your podcast. Now, in part two, we’re going to talk about being a people manager and how delegation is different in this situation. There’s a different framework that I suggest.

So if you’re a people manager and you want to delegate more effectively, the steps are a little bit different because you have authority over your team and you have the responsibility to your team to assign work that is appropriate and allows for growth. And so your expectations, from me to you, are going to be a little bit different in how you delegate. So stay tuned for part two of the episode. All right, that is all for this week. Have an amazing week and I will talk to you soon.

Coaching with me is the best way to guarantee you get happy at work and achieve your career and life goals. Getting started is easy. Head over to to learn more and apply. It is the first step to get you from feeling stuck to knowing exactly what you want and have the tools to make it a reality. I will be by your side the entire way.

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No longer settles for “good enough”

Hi, I’m Melissa.

Career & Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech

I'm a former Talent & Development leader in Pharma/Biotech turned CEO and Certified Professional Career & Life Coach. I also host the podcast, Your Worthy Career.

I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.

I'm leading a movement of women in the industry who are figuring out exactly what they want and shattering the glass ceiling. The very real ceiling in the industry, but also the one that we impose on ourselves. 

So long, imposter syndrome and overthinking. It's time to step into the impact and life you're worthy of having.

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