Sometimes, everything runs smoothly and we feel like terrific managers.
Other times, delegating leads to one disaster after another and we are left wondering what went wrong. Is it them or is it us?
Thankfully, there are twelve specific things we can do to have delegating succeed every time.
- Delegate right away
The key to delegating success is to start early. Give people enough time to complete the task, which often means delegating soon after the work lands on your desk. Far too many managers postpone delegating and end up creating unnecessary delays, last-minute rushes and stress.
- Be clear
One of the biggest reasons why delegating doesn’t go well is because of ineffective communications. Your employee or colleague may not clearly understand what you want. Or they might not realize they are responsible. Ask them to summarize the delegated task to confirm understanding.
- Set a deadline
Never delegate without a deadline. Otherwise, tasks can far-too-easily languish in perpetuity. If you are reluctant to assign a deadline, ask them to set it for themselves. “When can you get me something to review?” Or book a review meeting, which always works as a great deadline.
- Protect time
While this may sound obvious, far too many people simply flip an email and chalk that up to delegating. This doesn’t allow for questions, clarification, brainstorming and other support. It’s absolutely ok to email work to someone, but just make sure to have a follow-up chat to discuss the nuances.
- Define the WIFM
We are far more effective when we help the delegate understand “what’s in it for me?” Help them see how the work ties into one of their goals and they will be far more engaged.
- Link to a higher purpose
When we can link the work to a greater purpose, we fuel motivation. A compelling purpose helps to build excitement, initiative and commitment. All of these things lead to better results with delegated tasks.
- Describe the goal, not the path
Focus on what you want people to do, not how to do it. Sure, you can provide some suggestions, but let them own the actual process. As a result, they will assume more responsibility and accountability.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to follow-up with people. Even when we work with highly capable and engaged people, we need to demonstrate that this work is worth paying attention to. If we don’t follow up, other priorities will absorb their attention. We also risk having them veer off on a tangent or work on flawed assumptions that become hard to unravel.
- Flex your oversight
Your management style should flex to accommodate the situation. In other words, the frequency of your reviews and the level of detail you go into should directly correlate to the complexity and risk associated with the work. And your oversight should inversely correlate to their experience and engagement.
- Take time for training
While delegating is ultimately designed to help free up some of our time, we need to invest extra time upfront to yield better returns. We need to take time to train other people. Consider it this way: we can either pay now or pay later. If we don’t sufficiently train people, we often end up spending more time redoing and fixing. But the training time you invest now will pay you big dividends in the future.
- Provide feedback
Sharing feedback is one of the most important things we can do to develop our team. Yet most managers skip this critical step because they are reluctant to share critical feedback. Or they feel it is too late since the work is already done. But in reality, we have a big impact by stressing what we do like. This tends to bring about more of that behaviour on both similar and completely new projects. And we can effectively address select constructive issues once we have established trust by being succinct, respective and inquisitive.
- Recognize efforts
The final step in delegating is to thank people. Show appreciation and acknowledge their work. We all have an inherent need to feel a sense of mastery. Your recognition not only serves as nice closure, but also sets you up for successful delegating next time.
Overall, delegating doesn’t have to be a vague process with random results. Using the above strategies, you can get consistently great results. And once you master delegating, there is no limit to what you can accomplish.
Which of the above strategies resonates most with you? Thinking back to both your most (and least) successful delegating moments, which of the above factors were at play (or missing)? Please share in the comments below.