On one of my consulting assignments I worked with one of the client's young rising stars who I'll call Buddy. Buddy was an incredibly hard worker, could take on a number of projects at one time, and managed to deliver results on a very timely basis. Buddy was also brilliant and had a very practical and keen business sense. Great raw materials for a great future leader.
As leaders, it is easy to send employees on "errands"; produce a report, gather data. Great leaders don't send employees on errands; they ask employees to solve problems. This not only makes the employee feel more valued because they are being entrusted with something big, it also makes life easier on you because you'll have less on your plate. Aside from the fact that you're helping your employee grow by stretching him or her to perform at a higher level.
Next time you think delegation, think about whether you're delegating a task or a problem. If it is a task, try to take a step back and articulate a problem to be solved then let your employee have a rip at solving the problem.
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