The Art of Effective Delegation
I have found the fear of effective delegation and trusting someone else to do something up to your standards is right behind the fear of public speaking, death and taxes! How significant a fear is it? My Google search for articles written about delegation produced 3,000,000 results in 0.61 seconds. So now I will add my two cents to the list because some messages really do benefit from repetition.
Many people and businesses reach a point of being stuck. They know they need to make a change. Often, for both, that means growth and expansion. As Michael Gerber explained so well in The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. the ability to delegate effectively is one of the most effective tools for that growth.
Giving up control is one of the main reasons people are afraid to delegate tasks to others. Giving up that control can be hard for a lot of people. Trust does not come easy. Often this mistrust is based on past experiences. When we delegate ineffectively, we sometimes decide “It’s just easier to do it myself.” This is a crippling refrain. But the question to ask is whether the short-term gain worth the long-term loss.
Why is this such a major issue? That need for control is a stumbling block that can stop corporate, professional and personal growth from flourishing. Advancement requires taking on new visions, goals and tasks, learning new things, systems and ways of doing things. We can only do this if we give away some of the jobs we are doing now. Doing the same things over and over will only cause the same results over and over. This is what keeps people and companies stuck or worse, causes decline on a multitude of levels.
So, being able to assign some of your tasks to others will give you the time to learn new things, create new ideas and systems, and grow yourself and your business.
There is good news for the hesitant! If you approach this in an organized manner, there is hope for an effective transition of tasks from you to someone else.
First, let’s start with what to delegate. Analyze your tasks based on these three criteria –
What do you like to do?
Hold on to these tasks longer, at least until you can find something else you like to do also. This will help with your job satisfaction.
What do you need to do because no one else really can do it as well as you do?
If you have a specialized skill or have a proven track record of doing this better than anyone else, you will probably want to hold on to these tasks, at least until you can find someone else who can do it as well.
What don’t you like to do and what can someone else do as well as you do it?
This is what you will want to delegate. These are the less skilled and less pertinent tasks that you will probably enjoy giving away, once you are willing to give up control.
After you decide what you want to delegate, it’s time to think about the best person for those tasks. As I always tell my clients about hiring best practices, create an image of the person’s personality along with the skill sets needed. This is often a missed step as hiring often focuses on skills, not character. Skills can be learned but personality is part of their nature so make sure that their profile fits your needs and wants.
Some key elements for this person will probably be
Are they able to learn, listen and be trained?
These traits will get you off to the best start. Ask how they like to learn. What did they learn last? What do they like about learning new things? Look for enthusiasm behind the answers. This is harder to gauge but paying attention to this will help you see if their answers are rote or inspired.
Do they have good attention to detail?
Almost all tasks that need to be delegated have some degree of attention to detail. Pay attention to their capability in any way you can – misspellings, sloppy work, etc. Recently I’ve seen resumes with misspellings in the candidates’ address! Needless to say, they were rejected for the position.
Do they want to make the transition to this new role?
While they may seem like a great fit, do make sure this is what they want. Otherwise, it will be problematic from the start. Really dig in to make sure they are not just saying yes to appease you. If this is an internal transfer, you might risk losing an employee who was happy and productive where they were.
Start by looking around your organization to see if there are any likely candidates. If not, use the list of skills and traits you created to start looking. While I will agree that effective delegation is dependent on multiple elements, it is possible to find capable people, train them to do the job well, and then turn over control.
Once you find the right person, here are my top tips for how to delegate:
- Take the time to fully understand what you want done. This is the most important step of the process as it lays the groundwork for everything that follows. The tasks will probably change as time goes on so stay focused on this and pay attention to make these changes as needed.
- Document processes as much as possible. If you’re too busy, have the delegate do the documentation. This not only saves you time, it gets this step done and helps to train at the same time.
- Keep checking in and be available for questions. You need to make sure that you are consistently checking in but not micromanaging. Trust with appropriate supervision is a delicate but critical balance.
- Offer regular feedback. This is for both good and not so good performance. Praising someone for a job well done is one of the best ways to reward good work. It also often motivates people to do even better work. Calmly reviewing and documenting poor performance paves the way to improvements and will help the person understand how to do the work correctly.
- Create a relationship with this person. People don’t leave companies, they leave bosses. People want to work for someone who shows they care, who listens and who gives clear guidelines. Be respectful.
- Mentor the person by offering your guidance and opportunities. This helps you and them by developing their skill sets and giving them a chance to grow and improve.
- Create a shared vision. People like to feel that they are part of the whole, not just a cog in the wheel. If they understand how they contribute to the bigger plan, they will be more motivated to do their best.
As always, I am here to help with any of these steps: helping you and your business to go to the next level of growth, deciding when and what to delegate, creation of the job description, and the hiring and onboarding of the perfect person. Contact me for a free conversation to get you started on the path to success.