My last article I discussed how to use delegation specifically as a learning tool and why it is useful as one. I want to cover a few more benefits of delegation and give an outline on how to implement it and make it work for you. Its not an easy or comfortable thing to do at times but learning to do it well will improve your interaction with others as a leader and in any group where teamwork is important. And in additional to the learning capacity of delegation, it provides other benefits as well.
- Increase your productivity and that of the people you work with
- Provide motivation and opportunities to others
- Increase your own time available on a smaller focused set of tasks
Roadblocks to Delegation
A number of things are regular roadblocks to delegation and are important to eliminate before you can ever master delegation.
I can do it faster myself
This thinking and attitude is a major roadblock for delegation. Just because you may be able to do it faster yourself one time, doesn’t mean that you will always be faster at it, nor have time to do it every time. It often seems that delegation may be an option for something that at first seems like a one time event, but it almost always crops up again where you end up in the same situation, thinking that you will just have to do it yourself again. Getting past this mindset and looking at ways to delegate things out to others gives you more options when it comes up again and frees some of your time even when it is first delegated. It may very well take longer for someone else to do, but only the first or second time, they will get faster and then there are two of you able to do the same task, or to do it twice as fast. It definitely increases productivity so take note of anything you think you can do faster yourself and explore options to delegate that out without whatever help and training you need to provide to make it happen.
If I teach someone to do my job, I won’t have one!
This is wrong in so many ways. Not only is it generally a career limiting move to try to protect your own position but its obvious to others. Anything you are not willing to let go and you hold onto yourself is a risk in your bosses eye. No one wants to have a single person the only person able to do something, and when those people exist, they are the greatest threat to the organization, not asset. Once you start using delegation effectively, you will be using the time, skills and experience from other people, not just yourself! The fear of loosing your job by delegating and training portions of it is completely unjust. This provides you more time to do planning, problem solving and training that will allow you advance in an organization. If you have trained others to do your job, you open doors for promotion since there is someone to transition into your old role. This is opposite what most think and so changing your thinking and attitude about delegation will kill this common roadblock.
Effective Delegation Steps
I had this list of steps in my last article, but I wanted to show them again and elaborate on a couple of them in particular.
- Identify something that someone else could do that you currently do yourself
- Pick someone who is able to take on that new delegation
- Discuss and make clear that you need that persons help and give them the reasons you picked them
- Describe what you would like them to do and what the benefits are
- Have them paraphrase and repeat in there own words to ensure they understand
- Brainstorm and discuss any resources or training needed and who can provide that
- Plan some actions to get started
- Agree on how to report back on the delegation
Step 1 – Identify something to delegate
To accomplish step 1, list your activities in your role and critique them as to if they must be done , should be done or could be eliminated . Focus your time on the must be done items and look at the should be done items to delegate, leaving the could be eliminated to be eliminated. Of those items, determine which you must do personally, which ones someone else could do and what items can be simplified or broken down into smaller pieces to delegate.
Step 2 – Pick someone who can take it on
This would generally be a person who will be best at the job but it never needs to be limited to that. Since delegation is such a great learning tool, its often someone who isn’t yet good for the task and the delegation will be an opportunity for them to learn and improve in that area. Don’t limit your options here, there is room to delegate to almost anyone, you simply need to look at how to break down the tasks to something manageable for that individual. More on this in Step 8.
Step 3 and 4 – Discuss why you need it and what you need in detail
Be honest with your reasons here and explain why you are asking them. If your reason is based on that person being best for job, tell them that. It helps them to accept the task when its complimentary and a way to prove themselves. If its not complimentary and perhaps just a normal part of the job, its still important to relay the reasons why it is important and what benefits it has. You should always have some more details about the task when you ask for help. If they say yes, then you can go into those details. If they say no or want to know more, you have more to add instead of a dead end. You want to be able to convince them and get them agree to help before you are out of benefits and reasons why you are delegating to them.
Step 5 – Have them paraphrase your expectations
Telling someone what you expect isn’t very valuable unless you know they understood you. This goes without saying for all communication so make a habit of having them paraphrase it ALL back to you to ensure they understand what they need to do for the delegated task. Remember that delegation is a transfer of responsibility, so ensure they are accepting it themselves. They should be using phrases like, "I will do…" and "I’ll complete this by…" and never the word we. You should not be included in the responsibility so listen for this when they are paraphrasing back to you. If you skip this paraphrase, you can never tell if they have really accepted the responsibility.
Step 6 and 7 – Brainstorm and generate some plans
This step is what you do with the person to help them transition and take on the new tasks. Be careful you don’t get other resources involved and owning any responsibilities, they need to stay as resources to the person being delegated to. Help suggest people and other sources of help, perhaps the same ways you learned it, or techniques and tricks you’ve learned with experience that can save them headaches in taking on these new responsibilities. Another important point here is to not tell them what resources to use, let them decide for themselves. Everyone learns best in different ways and their style will likely not match your preferred style to don’t force them into your style of learning. Give them options and let them decide how to proceed with it. You can offer your opinion if they ask or let them know that you have a suggestion if they want it, but leave it to them as much as possible. This is an important coaching tool to ensure that the actions of picked by the person responsible for them.
Step 8 – Define reporting
I think this is the most crucial step in using delegation effectively and is most often ignored or done poorly. If you don’t have the appropriate level of reporting in place with delegation you will quickly find yourself disappointed or the new tasks dropped with no attention put to them. The ability of the person you delegate to will determine the level of reporting you need. This varies hugely and is why most times delegation doesn’t work as people usually wrongly assume that everyone will take a task and that’s the end of it. That is definitely not the case most of the time. I learned these degrees in freedom with reporting in a supervisory course I’ve done and I think they are the key to effective delegation.
- Act and report routinely – Completely independent work with reporting included with existing reporting practice, no additional frequency required. You can completely trust a person to own and deliver on a delegated task at this level.
- Act and report immediately – Provide only coaching help to improve them or when they are struggling with anything. Expect that the person will be reporting regularly and immediately for any problems that arise.
- Seek approval, then act – Support with training and have them report back, get approval and then act on that before returning for more. At this level, the person is learning to take things on and make some decisions themselves.
- Wait until told – Provide the direction for the person and all decisions. Have them do the tasks and return when completed to learn what is involved and begin understanding what you expect at each step.
You start at the bottom and work your way up to level one reporting. In any team that has delegation, the more team members there are higher up the list, the more productive they will be and the better results you will get. You need to use ensure, however, that you are starting people at level 4 and moving up the list. Delegation will fail if you let or expect someone to report at level 1, but are only capable or familiar enough to do this at level 3. To make delegation work and to get better and better at it, you need to learn how to recognize where the best level of reporting is and work with people using feedback, coaching and training to move them up to higher levels.
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