Every client I have ever had in nearly a decade is fighting a war with time. The battles in this war are called “work-life balance” or “effectiveness,” and at its heart it’s the need to stuff too much activity into too little time. One of the best ways to “make” more time is through delegation to others – if the delegation works. Too often it fails and that’s because it’s not done right.
There are six steps to delegation. Most managers are only doing two, and their losing their battles. Do all six and you’ll be making enormous advancements in no time.
Here are the first three steps:
Employees can’t deliver results successfully if the task delegated to them isn’t fully thought out or results are a moving target. Take the time and create the discipline to know what you’re asking for since an ounce of prevention is worth the pound of cure repairing a situation where delegating falls apart.
• Know the result / outcome / deliverable you are requesting.
• Make certain you are delegating a desired result, not a process. This allows you to make your request crystal clear, and your employee has the freedom to bring his/her best to making it happen. Naturally, it’s also your role to coach your employee and provide tips for effectiveness or avoid pitfalls. As part of the coaching process, be sure to ask your employees how they would apply what you’ve told them. This allows them to take ownership of the process and the results they will be creating instead of blaming the process if the results aren’t stellar.
• Include timing and budget in your thinking.
• Prepare yourself to manage for results, not process.
• Equip for success.
The key to genuine delegation is giving the employee the freedom to fail. It’s a scary notion, and the key to creating your own freedom at the same time. The way to mitigate risk is to equip your employee and the process for success.
Consider resources the employee may need to successfully create desired results.
• Identify the contingency plan if the employee doesn’t look like they’ll be able to deliver.
• Who is the backstop?
• How and when does the contingency plan kick into action?
Think your contingency plan through carefully and in advance of the situation arising. By doing so, you won’t react impulsively. You must implement your contingency plan in a way that does not communicate or demonstrate distrust to your entire staff; you also do not want the work turned over to you again. If you respond well, you can develop the employee and staff at the same time.
• Hand over the deliverable with timing, budget and context to enhance understanding.
• Provide tips and coaching while making it clear to the employee that she owns the process.
• Set expectations for communication and updates: frequency, content, in person or via email, etc.
• Have an open door policy for the employee to ask questions.
3. Confirm Understanding
One of the most critical areas where delegating tends to fall apart is when an assumption is made that the other person understands what we mean. Confirming understanding is a process that takes about 60 seconds and can determine the success or failure of delegation more than any other step in the process.
• Have the employee paraphrase the deliverable you’ve assigned in his own words.
This is the step where I get the most push back from managers. They feel it’s a bit like a kindergarten teacher talking with a student. However, if the only acknowledgement you’ve received is the employee nodding his head, how do both of you know that the request is understood and details are clear?
If you’re facing this resistance in yourself, consider these solutions:
• Be up front about the process of delegating. This is simply a step that helps you both be certain there is clear understanding.
• Be creative about how you elicit the paraphrasing from your employee. Replace the phrase, “Now what did I just tell you?” with “How would you explain this task to a fellow employee?”
• Ask employees if they feel they have the tools and resources to be successful.
• Ask questions to make sure employees understand what the task will require.
Stay tuned for steps 4-6 in the Six Steps to Delegation…