CIO role: 5 ways to delegate more

Learning to delegate effectively not only makes CIOs more efficient, but also helps develop the next generation of leaders. Consider these strategies to let it go, CIOs
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cio role how to delegate more

As a busy CIO, you might feel that there are not enough hours for all the critical things that need to be done.

More effective delegation may be the solution. It frees you to focus on strategic initiatives and spend more time engaging with the business. It also benefits the organization: A Gallup study found that Inc. 500 companies that embraced delegation saw higher growth rates with more jobs created.

Let’s take a look at what activities you should delegate to free up more hours in your day and enhance your leadership skills.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

1. Minimize your meetings 

If you’re like most CIOs, meetings fill your calendar. According to an MIT study, the average executive spends 23 hours a week in meetings. Finding free pockets of time to focus on things that really matter can be your biggest obstacle.

This doesn’t have to be the case. After each meeting, take a moment to write down what was accomplished, what you contributed, and some thoughts on whether the meeting would have been just as productive without you. You will quickly see not all meetings are created equal; some can unceremoniously fall off your calendar without the slightest business impact. This exercise can help you become more judicious in how you schedule your time.

[ How do your team meetings stack up? Read also:  Zoom tips: 6 ways to make meetings better. ]

Remember, the business should not always depend on you. It is critical to develop leaders who have the necessary knowledge and training to stand in for you and make important decisions. Without this, you will become a bottleneck, needing to bless every decision before it can go forward. Surround yourself with great people and give them the freedom to do great things.

Surround yourself with great people and give them the freedom to do great things.

2. Divorce yourself from doing

Just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Some executives develop bad habits early in their career that follow them to the corner office. For example, they feel that the only way to ensure work is done correctly is to do it themselves, or that it takes too much time to train someone and it’s ultimately easier if they do the task themselves. You may be able to get away with this mindset in the short term, but as the demands of the job grow, it will become increasingly difficult to be effective at the parts of your job that really matter.

By not letting go, you are telling people that you don’t trust them to execute important initiatives. Assuming you’ve surrounded yourself with talented individuals, you need to create and implement a structure that builds them up for success. This strategy may start with you, but it shouldn’t end there. The managers who report to you should approach their team members with that same mindset: Create a culture of learning and challenge people’s comfort zones. When you extend that trust and give people the tools for success, you build a department brimming with confidence that ultimately leads to greater innovation.

3. Hand off time-consuming tasks

This can open your eyes to new ways of doing things.

From migrating to the cloud to choosing a strategic partner, there are countless critical decisions CIOs must make. Each decision requires extensive research to back it up. Even if the final decision rests on your shoulders, that doesn’t mean you need to also do all the legwork that goes into making that decision.

Task your team with research and exploration tasks to assemble the information you need. Provide them with a clear blueprint on what you are looking for and a timeline for deliverables. Have them create a report or build a presentation around their findings and provide detailed feedback on where they excelled and where they could improve.

As your team members become more experienced, increase their level of responsibility. Get them to the point where you ask them to provide recommendations and push them to support those decisions. Allow them the freedom to get creative and bring fresh ideas to the table. This can open your eyes to new ways of doing things.

4. Cede control of your inbox

On the surface, email seems like the perfect way to scale back meetings, get quick updates, and streamline your professional life. But anyone who’s ever opened their inbox to find 87 new messages knows that email is where productivity goes to die. Sorting through all the noise for the truly important messages can drain serious time from your day.

Anyone who’s ever opened their inbox to find 87 new messages knows that email is where productivity goes to die.

Sign off. No, really – hand your inbox over to your assistant and let them be the gatekeeper for what gets to you. They can extract the substance from the fluff and give you a summary view of what is actually important, assign follow-ups as needed, and let you know when something needs immediate attention. Just imagine how liberated you would feel if you never had to open your dreaded inbox again!

5. Let your priorities drive your time

Every CIO knows what their top priorities are and how they advance the overall goals of the business. When you chart your weekly or monthly agenda, the activities that make the cut should be closely tied to these overarching goals. If you aren’t making progress there, not much else matters.

If you don’t let these priorities drive your time, your time becomes at the mercy of the moment. What current chaos can you be drawn into? Which stakeholder just won’t take no for an answer?

No one respects your time as much as you do, so be ruthless with how you allocate it. At the end of the day, your business depends on results. Are you delivering on the key goals that will define your quarter and your year, or are you filling time?

Delegation is more art than science

For many CIOs, delegation doesn’t come easily. Some tie their identity to the things on which they’ve built their career, and it’s tough to let go. Others never had a mentor to help them understand what tasks to delegate and to whom. Delegation is a skill that must be learned and cultivated, and it’s often more an art than a science.

Don’t view delegation as a one-way street where you shovel your work off onto your weary staff. When done right, delegation is a valuable tool for building future leaders. It is the perfect vehicle to help employees develop and grow their skills. Assigning challenging tasks and providing one-on-one feedback can be a great motivator: It shows people that they have value and that the company recognizes their potential and wants to invest in their professional growth.

[ How can automation free up more staff time for innovation? Get the free eBook: Managing IT with Automation. ]

Mark Runyon works as a director of consulting for Improving. For the past 20 years, he has designed and implemented innovative technology solutions for companies in the finance, logistics, and pharmaceutical space. He is a frequent speaker at technology conferences and is a contributing writer at InformationWeek.