Everyone wants more time and delegation is one way to create it. Yet, we often have a hard time letting go, believing that we are the best person to handle the task in order to have it done correctly. Become a more powerful and less frustrated employee and manager by learning these ten simple steps to safe and effective delegation so that you can get your day back and focus on the things that matter most.
Executives and managers are often left feeling frustrated when their staff doesn’t perform a task the way they expected. Then, quite often, managers learn the wrong and dangerous lesson. That is, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” We often lay the blame on the person we delegated to, believing they are not competent and as such, fail to meet your expectations and achieve the results you desired.
Stop and think about who would ultimately be accountable for any breakdown during the delegation process? Yes, it’s the person who’s delegating the task. To eliminate communication breakdowns permanently, we must take full accountability not only for the message we send, but for the message the other person receives. And that’s the good news because now, it’s 100% in your power to create the outcome you want in every conversation.
This frustration that ensues when your people don’t follow through and perform the way you expect can be eliminated by sharpening your communication and filling in the gaps that are often left open for interpretation. Here are the ten steps to delegate safely and effectively.
Know what the task is. (Delegate one task at a time. If you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing.)
Have the end result/desired outcome you want to produce in mind. This level of clarity is critical in order to create alignment around what is expected.
Find the right person you need to delegate to and give them the task.
Share with them the results you desire.
Ask them why they feel this task is important. Once you uncover their point of view, fill in the blanks and share with them what they missed, that is, sharing with them any additional reasons as to why this task is important, it’s overall impact, as well as the role they play.
Follow up Step 5 by asking them, “How can taking on this task benefit you?” What is the advantage for them to handle this project or task? Acknowledge not only their role but also how completing this task or project will benefit them. After all, every person, when asked to do something, try something or change something is immediately thinking, “What’s in it for me?” Making someone feel needed, included and part of the team builds their skill set, confidence and helps them do a better job, rather than simply telling them what to do.
Ask them how they plan on approaching and completing this task. Ask questions such as, “How have you handled something like this in the past?” “How would you go about handling/completing this?” The answers to these questions will determine if they are comfortable performing this task and whether or not they have the right tools, information, strategy, skills and knowledge needed to complete it. It will also help you uncover the gaps in their strategy, should their strategy be half-baked. Now, rather than run the risk of being redundant, you can listen for the gap in their thinking and solution. Then, simply fill in the gap or missing pieces that are needed to complete this task, or share with them what needs to be refined in their suggested solution or approach. (Caution: while doing this, be careful not to sound condescending. I.e.”So, repeat back what I just told you.”)
Determine the exact time frame that you want the task completed. Ask questions such as, “When do you feel you can complete this?” This creates ownership in the person’s mind to get it done, since they are creating the timeline themselves. (If the deadline they choose isn’t appropriate, ask, “What would you need in order to complete this task sooner?”)
Reconfirm: To ensure, crystal clear communication and alignment in thinking, reconfirm what was discussed. That can sound like, “Okay great, so to reconfirm, you will be able to have ______done by ______ date?” Or “So, I can expect the paperwork on my desk by tomorrow at ____?” This will eliminate any costly assumptions or misinterpretation of the message on both sides, as well as clarify your expectations.
Most important, make sure you follow up at the anticipated time the task was to be completed to ensure it was done. Otherwise, you run the risk of sending the wrong message to your direct report. Now, your direct report is thinking, “Well, since my boss didn’t follow up with me, it seems this wasn’t that important after all. I guess it’s okay not to complete what’s asked of me, since there’s no consequence anyway.” As such, you’re giving your people the out so they do not have to be accountable for completing what is asked of them. Now, they believe that it’s okay for tasks not to be completed!
Remember, you can’t scale dependency. In order for you to focus on the more timely and important projects, tasks and goals, it requires letting go of being a control freak and trusting the people you work with. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in a position where you’re not only doing your job, but now you’re taking on everyone else’s job and responsibilities. Following these ten steps to safe and effective delegation will help you build further accountability, confidence and trust within your team, while helping you maximize your skillset and leverage your time to focus on the activities that serve you best.
Photo Credit: Tableatny
Excellent advise Keith! Would you recommend that the communication be done in person or would another form be as effective? I am thinking of people who work remotely.
Thanks, Michael! To your question, many people believe that face to face communication is ideal. However, given the number of companies today that have remote teams, more and more managers are forced to manage their direct reports at a distance. As such, you can still successfully leverage these same ten steps to safely delegate in a conversation over the phone or even via video conferencing. After all, when reviewing these ten steps, whether face to face or remotely, you’re still eliciting the information from the person you are delegating to by asking them the right questions in order to seek to understand what they know and their point of view, rather than dumping or telling them what to do and how to do it. Anyone can dump a task on someone and with this approach, it doesn’t matter if you’re standing right in front of them or talking to them on the phone. Moreover, when it comes coaching direct reports, many managers are surprised to hear that you can still coach just as effectively over the phone as you can in person. Sure, you don’t have the body language or facial gestures that you can pick up on when face to face. Yet, for me personally, most of the one to one coaching I’ve delivered throughout my career has been done on the telephone. In fact, the majority of my experiences that I wrote about in my last book, Coaching Salespeople Into Sales Champions, were based on coaching conversations that were facilitated over the telephone. I have found that, in many cases, coaching at a distance is even more effective because all you have is the verbal message to focus on; forcing people to actively listen at a deeper level; to what is said and to what is not being said. That is, as long as you are focusing solely on the conversation, instead of multi-tasking or checking emails or texts while coaching ;-)
Great article. As far as I know delegation usually leads to poor productivity that’s why I rather choose coordination with my team. But after reading this i might have to change my perception about delegation a bit. Amazing.
I’m glad the article positively challenged your line of thinking, Matt, and I appreciate the kind words. You’re right, poor delegation leads to poor productivity. I use the analogy of digging a hole with a spoon. Do you then learn, “I can’t dig holes very well, it takes too long, and it’s inefficient.” Conversely, is the real lesson, “If I had the right tools and process, then I can dig a hole effectively and efficiently to achieve the results I want. Effective delegation leverages your team to do the job they were hired to do in an empowering way, while giving you time back in your day.
Being in the Training Business it is good to see an article written by someone who has a real grasp of the subject matter!