I find myself encouraging leadership teams to increase their capacity to have an impact on their business by delegating more often. It’s easy to say but many people find it difficult to execute. The reason delegation is challenging is that often it is boiled down to a too simple boilerplate, ‘delegate and elevate’. But without acknowledging a number of steps in place before, during and after – delegation often leaves business leaders, and their nominated delegation counterparts, feeling frustrated.
Sabina Nawaz writes frankly and honestly about delegation, and I like her take on it.
Here’s some useful takeaways for successful, effective delegation.
Delegate Like a Boss
It’s frustrating when you try to delegate a project and it doesn’t get done correctly or on time. But it’s not necessarily the other person’s fault — the problem is often in your approach to delegation.
Involvement – how much is too much?
You might be either too involved, or not involved enough. If you jump in too early after the handoff, your colleague never has the opportunity to take ownership. On the flip side, you need to provide enough guidance to set the person up for success.
So think of yourself as a coach, and ask open-ended questions, such as, “How would our chief competitor respond to this strategy?”
Communicate your expectations
Another reason your attempts to delegate may fail is because the recipient lacks initiative or follow-through. In this case, make sure you’ve clearly communicated your expectations. You might share a one-page document that lists top priorities, signals the kind of work you plan to reward, and provides accountability. It has been said that delegation without follow through is abdication. Take note.
Be thoughtful about timings
Finally, be careful about your expectations around timing. You might think a task is “quick,” but you probably didn’t think so the first time you were asked to do it. So ask the other person for a time estimate, and if it doesn’t sound right, ask about their process. Having this conversation early on will help the two of you get on the same page and will save you a headache down the road.
Successful delegation = Do – tell – teach – ask – support
Pull up a chair and show your report how the work needs to be done. It may take time to begin with, but by shadowing your process, delegation and achievement of tasks will become quicker over time.
Be explicit on how to work through the task or work you’re expecting. Then encourage the ‘why’. Self-reflection helps reports to make synthesise learnings and make the task more meaningful.
Dive into why you approach a task or initiative in a certain way. By sharing this perspective, you give the report greater understanding for how they will do the work and ensure ownership for future tasks.
Often, you’re delegating to someone who already knows more than they might think they do about the new task or project. Increase autonomy by asking your report what they have learnt during the process.
Always, always ask how things are going. Check in and make sure it’s clear you are available for support. A simple ‘how is that going?’ provides comfort and allows the person you are delegating to re-establish clarity or stumbling blocks.* These tips are adapted from “You’re Delegating. It’s Not Working. Here’s Why” by Sabina Nawaz
I hope you find these tips as useful as I do, the New Year is a great time to start considering your processes, and by successfully delegating you’ll free up your time to focus on other tasks, whilst knowing your team are clear on the what and the why.
I try to collate useful, easy to apply business tips in my bi-weekly email, Rambling On. If it’s something you think you would find useful then please do sign up.