Last month, my featured article was about creating a “Stop Doing” list. Hopefully, if you followed my suggestion, you now have a list of tasks that you are looking to delegate away. It seems a natural progression that I now disclose a few simple steps that will ensure your foray into delegation is a success.
1. Choose the right “delegatee”
Review the task and determine what skills are required. Delegation goes much more smoothly if you match the person with the appropriate skill set to the task you have to assign. Now if you don’t have a candidate that has all the skills you are looking for, decide which is the most critical one (analytical ability, attention to detail, communications skills) and make that match.
One of the rewards of delegation is the opportunity to help someone develop and grow. It is unlikely that you will always have a candidate that you can hand off something to and not have to provide some training or coaching. But learning to empower your employees will reap big rewards as their confidence grows with their abilities, and delegation becomes easier and easier, and your “Stop Doing” list gets longer and longer.
2. State your expectations clearly
When you assign a task, be very clear about the deliverables you expect, and qualify your expectations as much as possible. As a minimum, you need to communicate the “what” and the “when”. For example: “I want these invoices entered into my database by 5pm tomorrow”. Then, start adding qualifications to your request, such as: “Please make sure that the expense categories are correct, and if you are unsure, ask me and I will clarify for you because I want the reports to be accurate.”
In addition to communicating about the “what” and “when” of an assignment, I recommend that you also include information on the “why”. For example: “I need the monthly recap report done by 5pm tomorrow because I have a meeting with client X the following morning and need the information, so it is really critical that I have it.” Often, we assume that others should know what we expect. But if you have a new working relationship with someone, that is probably an unfair expectation. So, take a few minutes to think about what you need to communicate to save both of you a lot of aggravation, and possibly rework.
3. Choose an appropriate oversight level
No one wants to work for a micro-manager, but some managers are too hands-off when it is inappropriate. Note the skills and experience level of your employee and adjust your oversight level accordingly. The first couple of times they handle a complicated task, you may want to check in more frequently. After a few months, you could probably ease off on your involvement as their knowledge and confidence increases.
4. Provide feedback effectively and often
Once in a while, we get really lucky and have someone supporting us who does things perfectly the first time. But that scenario doesn’t happen too often. However, we can get the employee to the perfection level by providing appropriate feedback. Tell them very specifically what they did well (“Your accuracy is great. I rarely, if ever, find a mistake in your work. Keep it up.”), and what they need to improve on (“I really needed the monthly recap report for Company X done yesterday. I had a meeting with them this morning, and was not able to provide them with the latest information. That reflects poorly on my service. I need you to let me know when you cannot meet a deadline I have given you. Will you do that?”)
Specific, constructive feedback is the most effective way to improve performance. Even if you have a “star” employee, you still need to provide the feedback so that they will maintain their high level of performance. Work on giving more positive feedback. If the only time you provide feedback is when you are unhappy, your employees are not going to be very eager to talk with you.
Follow these simple steps and dive right into delegation. As you become more successful in delegating, you will feel more confident in adding to your “Stop Doing” list. Then use your time on something much more impactful for your business, or much more pleasurable for you.