Regardless of the leader’s position, a recurring theme of my coaching work is delegation. Often, it appears as, “I need to be more strategic.” Or, “It’s just easier to do it myself .” Or, “I feel like I’m getting in the way of my team developing new skills.”
When exploring deeper, one of the challenges that regularly bubbles up is: “I’m not sure how much I trust some of them.” While the first level of effective delegation is addressing the ‘trust issue,’ there are important steps you need to follow to be a strong delegator.
With full credit to Stephen R. Covey and anyone else over the years from whom I learned these, here are the ones I find important:
Shared Understanding – How many times have you delegated (read: ‘assigned’) something and when it came back your initial thought was: ‘That’s not what I wanted’? It’s essential, upfront, to align with your team member on your expectations, with clear communication on the outcome you want delivered
What I Know that You Should Know – If this request is something you could be doing yourself – and especially if you’ve handled it previously – there are likely several things you know that you’ll want to share. Taking time to tell your team member your ‘oh, by the way’ lessons will make them more efficient
Timeline – Like any SMART goal, it’s important to be clear on when you need the task/job completed. Having someone spend their weekend working on your project to deliver to you first thing Monday morning, then hearing you say, “Gosh, this could have waited until Friday,” is a classic demotivator
Accountability – Your employee needs to commit to accepting your request… and tell you how they’ll make sure it’s completed. This could include them giving you regular updates, if it’s a long-term project, or your reaching out midway through the expected timeline to check-in and see what guidance they might need
Consequences – Often this word brings up thoughts of ‘I’m in trouble’ or ‘I’ll get fired’. While those could happen in severe situations, the typical need is to let your employee know the impact it would have on the organization should things go awry
Finally, to quote Covey: “It’s delegation, not abdication.” Your responsibility as the leader is to set your team members up for success and be there to support them; not to walk away and show up at the end thinking it will be exactly as you expected.
Oh, and one last thing: be sure to say please and thank you.