Leadership Perspectives

6 ways to delegate more effectively

stationmateIn the management and leadership classes that I teach, I’ve proven time and again that even leaders just starting out understand the benefits of delegating, the consequences of failing to delegate, and even some of the reasons that they don’t delegate.  Yet the need to delegate more effectively comes up repeatedly on the list of things that leaders know they need to figure out how to do better.

Here are six ways you can delegate more effectively:

  1. Start by setting an intention and following it up with a system.  Each time you encounter a new task or project, get into the habit of asking yourself, “Am I really the best person to do this?” “Is there someone else that could / should do this?”  I had one client who set up file folders with each of his direct reports’ names on them in a holder on his desk.  He called it his delegation system.  Just having it there reminded him of his intention and each time he determined to delegate a task, he simply had to drop the task, or something to remind him of the task, into the appropriate folder.
  2. Consider the skills and motivation of the person you are considering for the task before you delegate.  If the person has neither the skills nor the motivation to do the task, then the delegation is indeed likely to fail.  But sometimes, just a high level of skill or motivation is enough to make up for the lack of the other.  All the benefits of delegation make me a proponent of erring on the side of trying to delegate and managing closely for a while, if necessary.
  3. Provide necessary training.  This is the part that deters many leaders who are convinced that it is faster to do things themselves than it is to train someone.  Sometimes that is true, if it is a one-time task or requires very specific knowledge accumulated over time.  But if a task is repetitive, don’t forget to figure in the number of times you will have to do the task yourself if you don’t train someone else.
  4. Clarify the overall objective.  Share with the person that you are delegating to the bigger picture of what you are trying to achieve.  If you ask someone to produce a document, they will probably do a better job if they know what you intend to do with the document.
  5. Provide a timeline and other conditions of satisfaction.  Many times we have unspoken expectations. Sometimes we think others should ‘just know’ and other times we are simply so used to doing things ourselves that we forget to mention things that we tend to take for granted.  Allow the person to whom you are delegating to have a fair shot at success by making sure that you share any deadlines and other expectations that you have.
  6. Allow for an individual approach and new ideas.  While it’s good to share your expectations, don’t be so prescriptive that you shut off great new ideas.  People will enjoy their work more if they are allowed to put their best thought and effort into it.  And you might learn something!

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