Delegation: Where The Rubber Meets The Road

We’ve talked about why we should delegate and what and when we should delegate. All of that is great unless we don’t actually do it or do it poorly. So today, we’ll provide some pointers on the how we can delegate successfully. 

First, choose the correct person for the correct task. Each team member has a role and a strength. Just because they “can” doesn’t mean they should. Match the task and the delegate.  

Second, build parameters and guidelines. Dumping work onto someone else’s plate isn’t “delegated.” In fact, if you are simply dumping, that is a good sign it could have been eliminated. The projects you hand off should come with proper context and objectives. Someone receiving a delegated task should know what they need to complete, the deadline, any milestones or check-in points, and the measure by which the task will be judged successful or not. It is not fair (and both your current and future results would suffer) if the task delegated if expectations keep shifting. Allow feedback and listen to ensure this is feasible.  

Third, ensure the delegate has the training and resources needed to complete the task. If they don’t, it will just come back to you anyway. This is not a license to micromanage, however. If they have clear goals, expectations, training, and resources, now is the time to trust them. Let them do their job; otherwise, you have not delegated.  

Fourth, make sure communication expectations are clear, open, and happening. For many tasks, especially if it is the first few times someone is doing something, milestones and check-in points are important, but so are questions and other updates along the way. But no takebacks! If the task is “coming back” before the goals and expectations are met, that is highly likely because you, as the one delegating, did not do the above. If you did do everything above, don’t let them shirk their job either.  If you are delegated a task and find you are trying to shove it back before the parameters are met, ask necessary questions to finish. Help the delegator be a better delegator. If it is getting shoved back, as a delegator, ask if you fulfilled the above requirements. If something is lacking, don’t just take back over; fill in the missing pieces and let the person fulfill their task.   

Finally, recognize a job well done and give credit for it. That is true for each milestone and the finished job. That doesn’t mean that you can’t say where improvement is needed, but it does mean that constructive criticism needs to be, well, constructive. “Thank you” are two very powerful words that should be said both to the person and about them when talking to third parties. Don’t be afraid to give credit where credit is due.

Ahh, perfect. We will all now be perfect at delegating, right? Well, probably not. This is not an innate skill. It takes practice and patience. So whether you are the one delegating or being delegated to, evaluate (and re-evaluate) how its going. Tweak and get better. And remember, good communication (and not playing the blame game) is the key.