- Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.
- You can delegate authority, but you cannot delegate responsibility.
- When you delegate work to a member of the team, your job is to clearly frame success and describe the objectives.
- When you delegate tasks, you create followers. When you delegate authority, you create leaders.
- “I know you haven’t finished that section yet, but this needs to be done right now!”
- “I know you’ve never done anything like this before, but I’m sure you can handle it.”
- Well, this is actually a super-easy task to do; anyone can do it.
- “Just come up with something, and we’ll see if it fits.”
- “That’s not the way I would have done it.”
- “I’m going on a business trip for a week. By that time, things need to be done.”
- “You should have shown me it before the deadline…”
- “You should have asked me first before making such an important decision!”
- “I’ve asked your colleague to handle the task, as well.”
- “This is not exactly what it’s supposed to be, but OK, I’ll finalize it on my own.”
- We have had to amend the project schedule, and this task should be next in line when you’ve finished your current task
- “I’ve arranged for you to work with a colleague so you can learn this skill; in the future you’ll be able to can handle it on your own.”
- This task is important to the project; that’s why I’m trusting you to do it.”
- “I’d like you to come up with a solution. Here are the criteria to use to assess possibilities.”
- “I hadn’t thought of tackling the task this way, but well done for coming up with such a great solution!”
- “I’m going on a business trip, but I’ll check into our workspace [into Wrike project management software] daily to answer any queries.”
- “Is the project on track? We should have a meeting to see where we are before the ultimate deadline.”
- Here’s an outline of the project team and responsibilities so you know what decisions you can make.”
- “I want you to work with a colleague on this, but you each have responsibility for a different part of the project.”
- “This isn’t exactly right; shall we have a meeting about how you can fix it?”
Best Practices to delegate:
- Find specific opportunities to delegate and learn to let it go. As leaders like patton and oglivy will say, do tell people how to do it. Hire remarkable people who will not settle for the mediocre; ask them what needs to be done and let them surprise you with results. Hire peple who will go for the remarkable and will not settle for less.
- Establish clarity and specificity. Prioritise work.
- Establish KISS, SMART goals. Drive specific milestones. Establish a clear set of objectives for each task. No matter what type of task you’re delegating, make sure to take the time to clarify all objectives for the task. Doing so can proactively protect against the possibility of miscommunication or a failed execution of the task. In some cases, this will be extremely simple (such as “enter this set of data into this spreadsheet”), but in other cases, you’ll have several simultaneous goals.
- Use positive appreciative laguage. Play to your coworker’s strengths. Even within your department, your coworkers all have unique skillsets, unique preferences, and unique talents. Making good use of those unique working personalities will result in more overall efficiency. For example, let’s imagine you have two tasks you want to delegate–one requires making phone calls to a client and one requires writing up a proposal. You also have two interns who could potentially handle the work–one has great people skills and the other is a fantastic writer. It’s clear which task should go to which intern because this is a cut-and-dry example. Most of your tasks won’t align themselves as conveniently, but the principle is still the same. If you aren’t sure who to delegate the task to, present the task to a group of your coworkers, and openly ask who might be the best to handle it.
- establish milestones and timelines. Timelines keep people focused, and hold all members of the group accountable. This is especially useful for tasks that don’t have a strict deadline, or complicated tasks that will encounter several milestones before being completed. Work together with your coworker to establish a mutually agreed-upon timeline, from the beginning of the task’s delegation to its final execution.
- Like with the task objectives, it’s a good idea to send out an email recap that reiterates each phase of the timeline. Doing so ensures that each member of the project has access to the same agreed-upon information, and no dates can get lost in translation. Be sure to select dates that are reasonable enough that they can be achieved, but aggressive enough that they inspire your workers to keep the task top-of-mind.
- Establish authority and respect: When working with a large group of people, it’s important to set the tone for your position in the relationship. When working with employees or interns, it’s important to set a tone of authority, and that you expect them to work as instructed. It’s also important to set a tone of respect, so they understand they are being relied on and appreciated. Authority and respect are also important when dealing with your peers in a delegation scenario. You must present yourself as a respectable authority in the workplace, and not someone just trying to pass off work, and you must also let your coworkers know that you respect and appreciate their willingness to help.
- Trust, but verify. Once a task is delegated, trust your teammate to execute it on his or her own terms. This will allow the person to tackle the work the way he or she feels is best. However, don’t be afraid to occasionally step in and verify that the task is moving along as planned. For example, if you made an assignment a week ago that’s due tomorrow, trust that your employee is on top of things, but send a quick verification email to make sure the person hasn’t hit any snags. Check in regularly, Tracking is not bad. Establish a feedback loop to keep stuff moving.
Building trust is very important. Here is a quick primer on how to establish trust:
But having the patience to build up that level of credibility can be frustrating to someone who joins the team. A new hire — especially someone who hasn’t already built a reputation in the open source community — simply won’t have the same level of influence. It doesn’t always seem fair, and some good ideas are likely never heard as a result. An enthusiastic new hire may join the company with the thought that his ideas will be heard equally, only to fall into a rut when he feels as if his good ideas are ignored. That can quickly lead to a disengaged employee who either leaves the company or, worse, becomes a cultural naysayer. Part of the solution is to set expectations so people know that earning a reputation takes time and hard work. It’s as if you want to sell something on a site like eBay: without any history or reputation score, you can find it far harder to locate buyers interested in what you’re selling. That takes time, patience, and a commitment to working at building your reputation, which isn’t something everyone enjoys doing. To make the process easier, here are some tips:
- Don’t use phrases like “the boss wants it this way” or rely on hierarchical name dropping. While that may get things done in the short term, it can curtail discussion that’s core to building a meritocracy.
- Publicly recognize a great effort or contribution. It can be a simple thank-you e-mail in which you copy the whole team.
- Consider whether your influence comes from your position in the hierarchy (or access to privileged information), or whether it truly comes from respect that you have earned. If it is the former, start working on the latter.
- Proactively ask for feedback and ideas on a specific topic. You must respond to them all, but implement only the good ones. And don’t just take the best ideas and move on; take every opportunity to reinforce the spirit of meritocracy by giving credit where it’s due.
- Reward a high-performing member of your team with an interesting assignment, even if it is not in his or her usual area.
Here are some inspiring quotes on delegation.