How should I delegate?

Thanks to Jackie Fitzgerald of Alchemy Business Coaching for today’s post:

Many years ago I shared an assistant with three of the other managers in the department. Sally was enthusiastic and very pleasant but she made a lot of mistakes (and I mean a lot). Because of the mistakes I tended not to give her anything too complicated to do, it was quicker and easier just to get on and do it myself. It meant I had more to do but at least things got done the way I wanted them done and to my standards. The fact that I had to stay late sometimes and do Sally’s job for her used to really annoy me but it was easier to say nothing.

One day I asked Sally to do something and as I walked away I heard her tell a colleague that she hated working for me, I asked her to do nothing but ‘crap’, I never gave her anything interesting to work on and was never clear about what I needed or when I needed it. She wondered how she was supposed to learn anything working for me. I was furious! I didn’t give her stuff to do because she messed it up! And of course I was clear about what I needed and when. Wasn’t I? I thought I was a good manager but in reality I wasn’t and overhearing Sally’s comments shocked but helped me (although I would have preferred it if she had spoken to me directly of course).

The fact is that many of us find delegating really, really tricky. If that includes you, here are my rules for effective delegation:

  • Be direct and clear about what you want people to do.
  • Know the answers to any questions they might ask before you go to them with the task. Questions might include: Why do you want it doing? By when? To what standard? Who’s it for? What’s it for? What happens if I get it wrong? Is it a standalone task or part of something bigger? What’s the context or background? What are the stages I have to go through with it? Who else should I involve? If they don’t ask relevant questions themselves make sure that you cover the answers in your briefing anyway.
  • If you want things doing in a particular way, style or sequence tell them how you want it doing and explain why you want it doing that way.
  • Accept that they’re unlikely to do it exactly the way you would do it. Does that matter? If the end result is OK, how important is the way they got there? If how they do it does matter then tell them, perhaps even provide a checklist, flowchart or crib-sheet that they can follow.
  • Provide the right resources to do the job. This might be time, it might be information or equipment or tools or money. It might be additional training or help, or an introduction to someone who can help in some way.
  • Let them get on with it but check in to see how things are going. Never, ever micro-manage or hover. Ask for updates and feedback, see if they need any help, guidance or support but be sure to use open questions here. Examples might be:
    • What are you finding hard or challenging?
    • What do you need?
    • How can I help you?
    • What can I do to support you?
  • Give your team work that is challenging but not totally beyond their capabilities and experience.
  • Remember that time spent training someone is never wasted: you’re developing a team member and freeing up your time in the end.

Finding delegating a bit of a struggle?

Build a team you can be proud of