Try designing an activity where the leader has to describe to his team members how to build something or complete a certain task, with his back facing the team so he can't see what they're doing. Succeeding in this type of activity will require that the leader is able to use clear communication without being directly involved or micromanaging the situation. It will also require trust from both parties, and will force the team members to work together & help each other as they try to work out the specifics of carrying out the task.
You can follow the activity with questions about what the leader did well and what he could have done better, and also what was frustrating for the leader. Push them to articulate how this activity translates to work in their organization.
Here's a great example of this activity with a bit more detail: https://prezi.com/i1w8-bnyso-l/activity-to-teach-delegation/
You'll need at least 5 people (not counting 1 referee), 3 rooms so that people can't see or overhear one another, and 1 multi-page comic book with words and illustrations.
Divide people into groups of at least 5 – perhaps only 1 group. Each group will consist of 1 leader and 2 mid-level-managers with at least 1 junior employee per manager. Each manager and his or her employees constitute a department. One department handles pictures; the other handles text.
The leader can communicate only with the 2 mid-level managers.
Junior employees can communicate only with their assigned manager.
Managers and junior employees from the "Pictures" department must never be in the same room with those of the "Text" department. Managers aren't allowed to overhear or look at the work done by the other manager or their junior employees. In other words, "Pictures" and "Text" are completely segregated.
Only the leader can view the comic book – and only when alone. While communicating intentions to the managers, the leader must depend on a remembered idea. Between questions from the managers, the leader can review the original document, which he's trying to get the junior employees to reproduce.
The leader is not allowed to make notes or communicate except aloud. Managers are not allowed to take notes – only listen to orders and ask for clarification. The leader is not allowed to view the work of junior employees.
The leader's job is to describe the comic book separately to the "Picture" manager and the "Text" manager. They can each return to ask questions as many times as necessary. But at the end of the process, when time runs out, the comic book that resides in the leader's head should be reconstituted by the separate work of these 2 subgroups.
If the leader and managers communicate well, then the teams will create a close replica.
In my program, "The Success Principles of Olympians, Presidents & CEOs," I share five principles, one of which is delegation. To bring the simplicity of delegation home to the leaders, ask these two questions?
1) Despite the fact that you may be able to do it better yourself, do you actually grow all your own seed, fruits and vegetables and raise your own beef, chicken and pork? Or do you delegate everything related to that responsibility to your grocer?
2) Instead of growing your own cotton, weaving your own fabric, and making your own clothes, don't you delegate every aspect of that responsibility to merchants who provide you with excellent results in a timely manner for a reasonable fee?
Delegation is a mindset. These two word pictures can be used along with other activities to bring home the simplicity of delegating once one accepts its benefits.
Marnie Swedberg, www.Marnie.com
After 40 years in business, including 25 years in the C-Suite, with 3 different corporations where I led small teams of 5-10 employees to a division of 1000 people located around the world the same approach works in each circumstance with adjustments for cultural norms (e.g., delegating to a Japanese employee is a little different than to a European or US-based individual). First, one needs to accept delegation is not abdication. Then begin by asking good questions of the candidates you want to delegate to so you're certain that the person is bringing an educated point of view to the situation. Once you're convinced you have the correct person then apply routine project management techniques beginning with a description of the scope and objectives and having regular status reports. Finally, and most importantly, keep the delegated activities simple, measurable and visible. Visibility works wonders in successful delegation.
Have you ever done an escape room? Our organization has seen a lot of business using these as team building events.
This could be a really fun way to have one of your leaders practice delegating. Escape rooms provide a clear end goal but present lots of obstacles along the way that require a team to work together.
We have seen some of the best leaders excel and flounder through these experiences and they create a fun environment for feedback.
There are certainly tons of ways to develop a leader in the art of delegation but this has been a fun way for us to practice it.
Happy to chat over the phone in more detail if that is of interest.
P.S. Most escape room businesses will let you watch your teams in the control rooms on cameras so you can take notes while they're playing :)