Quite a few leaders struggle with delegation. They know they should delegate, but they are uncomfortable with the delegation process. Some leaders feel guilty about delegation. Some leaders don’t want to delegate because they don’t want to come across as the “bad guy or gal.”
What I’m going to do in this article is demystify the process of delegation. You are going to get a simple four step process that when followed will allow you to have success in delegating tasks.
John C. Maxwell
“If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.”
– John C. Maxwell, Leadership Expert
Effective leadership causes results. Most importantly, effective leadership is about getting results through other people. When you started your leadership journey, you probably were hired because you had skills or knowledge. You were an individual contributor.
As you got promoted and took on positions of more responsibility, it became less about what you could do and more about what you could get accomplished through other people.
Delegation is a big part of getting results through other people. Delegation is not about getting someone to do work that you don’t want to do. Delegation is about having others do work that is necessary to get done and that work should be done by someone other than you.
Therefore, learning how to delegate effectively should be a high priority for every leader.
Below is a step-by-step guide for effective leadership delegation.
Four Steps Of The Delegation Process
The Actual Delegation
Observing and Coaching
Preparation for Delegation
Effective delegation requires planning. The first thing to consider in delegating is should this assignment be delegated?
What things to delegate:
- Tasks that can be accomplished by others.
- Tasks the person has the authority to complete.
- Tasks where all the information and authority are available to the person.
- Tasks that don't require authority unique to you or your position.
- Tasks for which an individual other than you can have direct control over the task.
What things SHOULD NOT be delegated:
- The delegation process itself. Any work to be delegated should be delegated and explained by you.
- Performance evaluations.
- Disciplinary actions.
- Planning and forecasting. Some of the detail work can and should be done by others, such as calculations and research. Decisions should be made by the leadership.
- Confidential tasks.
- Tasks that have been specifically assigned to you by your manager.
- Complex situations — don't ask someone else to handle what you don't understand yourself.
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Another part of the planning process is choosing the right person for the delegation. Some key questions to consider when choosing who to delegate a task to are:
Does this person currently have the skills, or can they develop the skills to complete the task?
Will this person be motivated to complete the task? You want the delegated task to occur as an opportunity for the person you are delegating to. Of course, there may be times when you delegate to someone when they are not motivated to complete the task. Just know that in those instances it will require more of your leadership input.
Does the person have the time capacity to complete the task?
Once you have determined the task to be delegated and the right person, the next step is to delegate the task.
Delegating the Task
Delegation of tasks (especially significant ones) should be done verbally. No email or text. The reason for verbal delegation is to ensure there is an understanding of what there is to be accomplished. Email and text can sometimes make it difficult to have a clear understanding.
The Need For Clarity
"It's a lack of clarity that creates chaos and frustration."
Steve Maraboli, Decorated U. S. Military Veteran and Inspirational Speaker
In delegating the task, the main things to accomplish are:
- Make sure there is clarity about what is to be done, how it is to be done, and by when it is to be done. You must confirm with the person you are delegating to that they are clear on these three points. Have them repeat to you their understanding of the delegated task.
- Explain how the delegated task fits into the overall scheme of things. Articulate the big picture. People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
- Confirm how you will measure success.
- Confirm what support is needed from you.
The next step is to observe and coach
Observe and Coach
Delegating the task does not mean you now can just “wash your hands” and be done with the matter. You are responsible and accountable for the task being completed as designed. Therefore, you want to “oversee” how the task is going. Oversight does not mean micro-managing.
Check-in periodically to see how things are going. This can be on a planned schedule or randomly when you both agree on a time. As part of oversight, you want to make sure that there are no barriers that stand in the way of the task being completed as designed.
Consider your role is to remove any barriers the prevent the person from completing the task.
Sometimes you will have to be a coach. Coaching is not about doing the task for someone or even telling them how to do the task. Coaching is about supporting the person in discovering for themselves how to accomplish the task. In your role as coach, you want to become an expert at asking questions that lead to a conclusion for the other person.
The last step in the delegation process is assessment.
After the task is complete, you want to have an assessment of the task. Here you want to look at what went well, what did not go as well as we would have liked it to go, and what could be done differently to improve for next time.
There should not be any “big surprises” in the assessment if you have followed the other steps above. The assessment should be a time to celebrate the accomplishment of the task.
So, there you have it. A step-by-step guide to delegate effectively. Practice these steps and see how your leadership effectiveness grows.
Let me know how what you think about this article in the comments below. Did I leave something out? Oversimplify? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in delegation!