Successful Delegation

Posted: June 6, 2011 in Personality Development
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Using the Power of Other People’s Help

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Delegate Effectively

Even “Super-You” needs help and support. There is no shame in asking for assistance. Push aside the pride and show respect for the talent others can bring to the table.

And, remember that there is no such thing as a single-handed success: When you include and acknowledge all those in your corner, you propel yourself, your teammates and your supporters to greater heights.

– Author Unknown.

Do you feel stressed and overloaded? Or that your career seems stalled? If so, then you may need to brush up your delegation skills!

If you work without anyone else’s help, there’s only a limited amount that you can do. You can only work so many hours in a day, and there are only so many tasks that you can complete within these hours. Because of this, there’s a limit to the number of people you can help by doing these tasks, which means that your success is limited.

However, if you’re good at your job, people will want more and more from you!

This can lead to a real sense of pressure and work overload: you just can’t do everything that everyone wants. This is why so many good, effective people are stressed and unhappy, and feel that they’re letting people down. If this describes you, the good news is that you have a tremendous opportunity if you can find a way around this limitation: if you can build a strong and successful team of people, well able to meet the demands that others place, your potential is limitless!

This is why delegation is such an important skill, and is one that you absolutely have to learn!

Why People Don’t Delegate

People tend to avoid delegation because it takes a lot of up-front effort. After all, which is easier: designing and writing content for a brochure that promotes your new service, or having other members of your team do it?

You know the content inside and out. You can write benefit statements for it in your sleep. It would be relatively straightforward for you to sit down and write the brochure. It would even be fun! The question is, “Would it be a good use of your time?”

While on the surface it’s easier to do it yourself than explain the strategy behind the brochure to someone else, there are two key reasons that mean that it’s probably better to delegate the task:

  • Firstly, if you have the ability to develop a great new campaign, the chances are that your skills are better used to develop the campaign further, or to launch new campaigns. By doing work that could be delegated, you’re failing to make best use of your time.
  • Secondly, by meaningfully involving other people in the project, you develop those people’s skills and abilities. The next time a similar project comes along, you can delegate the task with a high degree of confidence that it will be done well, with much less involvement from you.

Delegation allows you to make the best use of your time and skills, and it helps other people in the team grow and reach their full potential.

When to Delegate

Delegation helps everyone when done appropriately, however that does not mean that you can delegate just anything. There are five key questions you need to ask yourself to determine if delegation is appropriate:

  • Is there someone else who has (or can be given) the necessary information or expertise to complete the task?
  • Does the task provide an opportunity to grow and develop another person’s skills?
  • Is this a task that will recur, in a similar form, in the future?
  • Do you have enough time to delegate the job effectively? (You’ll need to train people adequately, answer questions, check progress, and manage any rework that is necessary.)
  • Is this a task that you should delegate? Tasks critical for long-term success (for example, recruiting the right people for your team) genuinely do need your attention.

If you can answer “yes” to at least some of the above questions for a job, then it could well be worth delegating it.

Other factors that contribute to this include:

  1. The project’s timelines/deadlines.

    • How much time is there available to do the job?

    • Is there time to redo the job if it’s not done properly the first time?

    • What are the consequences of not completing the job on time?

  2. Your expectations or goals for the project or task, including:

    • How important is it that the results are of the highest possible quality?

    • Is an “adequate” result good enough?

    • How much would failure really matter?

    • How much would failure impact other things?

That being said, having all these conditions present is no guarantee that the delegated task will be completed successfully either. You also need to consider to whom you will delegate the task, and how you will do it.

The Who and How of Delegating

Having decided to delegate a task there are some other factors to consider. As you think about these, you can use free Delegation Worksheet to keep record of the tasks you choose to delegate, and who you want to delegate them to.

To Whom Should You Delegate?

The factors to consider here include:

  1. The experience, knowledge and skills of the individual as they apply to the delegated task.

    • What knowledge, skills and attitude does the person already have?

    • Do you have time and resources to provide any training needed?

  2. The individual’s preferred work style.

    • How independent is the person?

    • What does he or she want from his or her job?

    • What are his or her long-term goals and interest, and how do these align with the work proposed?

  3. This person’s workload.

    • Does he or she have time to take on more work?

    • If you delegate this task, will you need to reshuffle other responsibilities?

When you first start to delegate work to someone, you may notice that he or she takes longer to complete tasks than you do. This is probably because you are an expert in the field, and the person to whom you’ve delegated is still learning. Be patient: if you have chosen the right person to delegate to, and you are delegating correctly, you’ll quickly find that he or she quickly becomes competent and reliable.

How Should You Delegate?

Use the following principles to delegate successfully:

  1. Clearly articulate the desired outcome.

  2. Clearly identify constraints and boundaries. Should the person: 

    • Wait to be told what to do?

    • Ask what to do?

    • Recommend what should be done, and then act?

    • Act, and then report results immediately?

    • Act, and then report periodically?

  3. Delegate to the lowest possible organizational level. The people who are closest to the work are best suited for the task, because they have the most intimate knowledge of the detail of everyday work. This also increases workplace efficiency, and helps you develop your people.

  4. Provide adequate support, and be available to answer questions.

  5. Focus on results. Concern yourself with what is accomplished, rather than detailing how the work should be done: Your way is not necessarily the best way!

  6. Avoid “upward delegation”. If there is a problem, don’t allow the person to shift responsibility for the task back to you. Ask for recommended solutions; and don’t simply provide an answer!

  7. Build motivation and commitment. Discuss how success will impact financial rewards, future opportunities, informal recognition, and other desirable consequences. Provide recognition where deserved.

  8. Establish and maintain control.

    • Discuss timelines and deadlines.

    • Agree on a schedule of checkpoints at which you’ll review project progress.

    • Make adjustments as necessary.

    • Take time to review all submitted work.

By thoroughly considering these key points prior to and during the delegation process, you will find that you delegate more successfully.

Keeping Control

We all know that as managers, we shouldn’t micro-manage. However, this doesn’t mean we must abdicate control altogether: In delegating effectively, we have to find the sometimes-difficult balance between giving people enough space to use their abilities to best effect, while still monitoring and supporting closely enough to ensure that the job is done correctly and effectively.

The Importance of Full Acceptance

When delegated work is delivered back to you, set aside enough time to review it thoroughly. If possible, only accept good quality, fully-complete work. If you accept work you are not satisfied with, your team member does not learn to do the job properly. Worse than this, you accept a whole new tranche of work that you will probably need to complete yourself.

Of course, when good work is returned to you, make sure to recognize and reward the effort. As a leader, you should get in the practice of complimenting members of your team every time you are impressed by what they have done. This effort on your part will go a long way toward building team member’s self-confidence and efficiency, both of which will be improved on the next delegated task. This way, you both win!

Key Points:

At first sight, delegation can feel like more hassle than it’s worth, however by delegating effectively, you can hugely expand the amount of work that you can deliver.

When you arrange the workload so that you are working on the tasks that have the highest priority for you, and other people are working on meaningful and challenging assignments, you have a recipe for success.

To delegate effectively, choose the right tasks to delegate, identify the right people to delegate to, and delegate in the right way. There’s a lot to this, but you’ll achieve so much more once you’re delegating effectively!

Check how effectively you’re delegating now with “How Well Do You Delegate?” quiz.

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