If delegation has so many benefits, why don’t more managers do it? How many times have all of us, including supervisors, managers, and executives, read or heard, “delegate to get more done, complete more strategic tasks, and develop your employees?” A lot. Yet much work that needs to be delegated isn’t.
Some fear they’ll get inferior work, so they just do it themselves, mistakenly thinking they’re saving lots of time. They really aren’t, because this is at the expense of not getting more valuable or revenue-producing tasks done.
Others delegate ineffectively, or incompletely. While they often understand and use basic delegation steps, they’re often missing key steps that would make an immense difference.
There are other reasons for a lack of delegation, including managers who want to retain control; a fear of developing direct reports who are too capable; they like doing the task; or, “it’s going to take me just as long to delegate it as it is to do it, so I’ll just do it.” But this is true only once, because after delegating it, the manager will then have someone skilled to do the job the next time.
Here’s how to avoid these mistakes and shortcomings.
An Easy to Follow, 6 Step Delegation Process to Achieve Results:
Step One: Choose the Person
- Who has the potential to do the project?
- Who can you help develop? Give people projects that “stretch” their capabilities, but not ones that are beyond their capabilities, or it will frustrate them.
Step Two: Explain the End Results
*Describe the End Results Needed
- Describe the specific end results or outcomes needed as if the project were already successfully completed. Include the standards or expectations the employee is to meet and quantify them as much as possible.
- Focus on the end results, not the steps or methods to accomplish them (unless there’s a safety or legal reason to do so), or their creativity and confidence will be stifled.
- What measurements or criteria will you use to determine if the end results have successfully been achieved or not? Share this information.
Step Three: Provide Authority & Resources
Answer: The amount of authority they need to successfully complete the project.
- Let other people your delegatee will be working with know that they have authority from you on this project.
- Time is a resource; what is the deadline, due date, or completion date?
Step Four: Schedule Update Meetings
You’ve given the person authority and resources to complete a project, and will hold them accountable for performing well. However, you’re still responsible for the project’s successful completion.
How can you be certain the employee is performing well without hovering over them and hindering their creativity and confidence?
By scheduling Update Meetings.
- Set dates, times, and locations now when you and your delegatee will review their progress. Scheduling specific meetings ahead of time means you’re much more likely to actually have them.
- If it’s a two-month project, perhaps you’ll sit down every Monday at 1:00 pm. This lets you spot problems before they reach a crisis level, and lets you praise work that’s been successfully completed.
- Either one of you can ask for an Update Meeting ahead of schedule if you want one.
- If they run into a problem or difficulty which they cannot overcome, they’re to come to you for help instead of continuing to struggle or waiting until the next Update Meeting.
- Reassure them by saying something like this: “If you’re working on something and you have a problem you can’t seem to solve after a reasonable amount of time, please come and see me for help.”
“I promise I won’t criticize you or think you’re stupid. Instead, I’ll help you get it solved.”
Step Five: Confirm the Project
We’ve all experienced this.
Have you ever been given an assignment, thought you understood it, and completed it only to find out it wasn’t what your boss needed or wanted?
Or have you ever given an employee an assignment, and had the same thing happen?
*Confirm the Expectations & Specifics
Ineffective way of confirming projects:
“So this is what I need. Do you understand?”
(What do most people say whether they truly understand or not? “Yes.” Why? Because they don’t want to look stupid).
Effective way of confirming projects:
“I just want to be sure that I’ve explained this project clearly. To be sure I did, would you please repeat back the project specifics to me, starting with the end results.”
- Be sure they repeat the information you gave them in steps 2, 3 and 4.
*The Only Way to Get Confirmation
They either know the project’s specifics or they don’t. Politely asking them to repeat them back to you until they get them right saves both of you wasted time, embarrassment, and irritation. Plus, it’s so quick and easy to do.
Step Six: Check Comfort & Assure
- Part of delegating is the process itself; using a series of effective steps.
- Part of delegating is also how we help employees feel comfortable working with us.
Ask your delegatee:
“What concerns might you have about this project that you’d like to discuss?”
“What else might you need from me in order to work effectively and comfortably on this project?”
*Sincerely Assure Them
- Tell WHY you chose THEM for the project:
“I chose you for this project because it requires a lot of analysis which is something you’re already very good at…
- Assure them
…and I’m just plain confident you can do it well.”
Some things you shouldn’t delegate: management responsibilities, including salary and pay matters, promotions, discipline, policy directives, performance appraisals, tasks you’ve been specifically assigned to do, legal matters, handling grievances, high-risk matters, and ill-defined tasks.
Avoid the common mistake of delegating lots of low-value “junk work” that no one really wants to do. It’s okay to delegate some of it, but if it’s most of what you’re delegating, you’ll demoralize people. The best results are achieved when tasks and projects of value are delegated.
Beneficial results include completing more priorities and strategic tasks; sending work to the lowest level of the organization capable of doing it; more capable and motivated employees; reduced administrative costs; and improved work flow and productivity.
It’s what happens in more productive workplaces.
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