The subject of delegation makes me think of the two distinct reactions that tend to occur in people who are delegating work. The delegator is either ready to shove something off of their plate as quickly as they can, because they can’t get to it (or simply don’t want to), or they are completely blocking any progress in the true transition of the work, because they don’t want to let go. So, before we can dive into the six steps of delegating, I think it’s important to understand the “why” of successful delegation. Check out these two loosely translated definitions of Delegation for a better illustration:
Wikipedia: Delegation is the assignment of any responsibility or authority to another person to carry out specific activities.
Leadership Training Course: Delegation is giving staff the freedom and authority to handle certain specific matters on their own initiative – with the confidence that they can do the job successfully.
Ouch, did that second portion of the leadership definition strike a chord? There is a big difference between true successful delegation and simple task allocation. If we want to successfully delegate, creating an enriching experience all around, we should focus on that second definition. So let’s dive in:
Step 1: Determine what to delegate.
A lot of time management gurus will advise you to step back and determine not what you SHOULD be doing, but what you should STOP doing. What are the things that you excel in, that only YOU can/should do? Those things should not be delegated. Take time to step back and really understand how much of a particular project/plate should be delegated. Maybe all of it should be delegated, or maybe just certain aspects of it are better achieved by someone with a different set of strengths.
Step 2. Pick the RIGHT person.
We save ourselves precious time and energy when we carefully select the right person for the job. Going back to the definition…..you should be comfortable in your confidence that they can perform the job successfully with the proper transition and tools. There is trust and risk involved when we delegate, and we quickly become the person who just can’t let go, if we begin the process without confidence in the person selected.
Step 3. Set the Stage and Provide Training
This step is critical….everything can derail with a delegator who simply shoves things off of their plate. We have to take the time to agree on the goals and expectations of what a job well done looks like. This ultimately sets both parties up for success. No one likes to have something dumped into their lap with no guidance, and if that happens, it’s likely the delegator is going to end up with double the work and mess to clean up when expectations aren’t clear. It’s quite ironic how that works isn’t it?
Step 4. Communicate!
How will progress be measured? Does everyone in the department understand who’s responsible for what? Hint: If the delegation occurs from a leader to a member of their team, that leader is still ultimately accountable and responsible for the work done. Just because we aren’t doing the work anymore, doesn’t mean we are automatically off the hook right after we hand it over. It’s a best practice to specifically define how continued communications and support will flow as the job is in progress.
Step 5. Step Back.
Don’t be that person who can’t let go. Once you’ve sufficiently set the stage, provided training, and outlined how communications will flow, leave them alone. The definition earlier says it best: you should be giving them the freedom and authority to handle certain specific matters on their own initiative. This is a tough one, especially if you are a person who really thrives on responsibility and ownership of your craft.
Step 6. Review the work.
Have them assess their progress. How do they feel things are going? Are the targets that have been outlined being met? Obviously, this would be a great time to really praise accomplishment, if the transition of work has really gone well.
So here we are; delegation complete. Except it’s really not…the complexity of the project delegated dictates the extent of continued involvement. You may need to head back to step three several times and keep right on circling! It looks simple and sounds quite logical, but in real work life, I’ll be the first to say it’s not as easy as it sounds. It’s so important to follow the steps closely, IN ORDER. 😊 However, it’s so satisfying to see and feel the sense of accomplishment and growth that comes with successful delegation – no matter what side of delegation you’re on.
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