6 Steps To Better Delegating

Business woman with hard helmet delegating a businessman
Business woman with hard helmet delegating a businessman

Delegating is a necessity, but it's also a skill. Good delegation is a requirement for good leadership. I see six tenets for good delegation.

1. Communicate the Why
The person doing the task needs to know why it's important. Why are they doing it? The answer should not be, "This is a crappy job my manager doesn't want to do." Instead the doer must feel the end value of even the simplest tasks, so they feel they're contributing to the end goal.

2. Get Buy-In
The most powerful phrase in management is, "What do you think?" The second most powerful is, "How would you do it?" Asking these questions shifts the doer immediately into collaboration mode. Additionally, it provides you with another point of view, which is never a bad idea if both parties are trying to achieve the same goal. When you are both invested in the task, the chances of success are much higher.

3. Clarify Your Expectations of the Output
What output do you want? What should it look like? How does it add to value the recipient? These clarifications empower the doer to be creative in resolving complications and achieving the right results. Clarifying the criteria for success empowers the doer.

4. Protect the Doer from Unnecessary Failure
Stay involved. Let the doer know you will be asking for updates. During the updates, offer guidance in a manner that does not disempower the doer or kill creativity. Of course, once in while failure is the only way to learn how to do something right -- you can't learn to roller-skate without falling down -- but failure should be allowed only when necessary and should be immediately followed by confidence building and further empowerment.

5. Choose the Right Person
People have different strengths and weaknesses. Don't write someone off as being the wrong person until you're sure your delegating skills are up to par. You may find your staff to be much more capable as you improve your skills.

6. Be Accountable
The doer is responsible for the project, but you are ultimately accountable for the doer's success, the project's results, and the team's growth. Every completed task should strengthen the team. When things turn out well, don't take credit. The team is stronger when the less powerful are empowered. If the results are not to your expectations, consider what part of the delegation process may have contributed to the weak results. Do you need to convey the expected output more clearly, explain the purpose better, or ask for more frequent updates? What did you do or not do that led to the failure?

Delegating has great impact on productivity and morale, but it's harder than it seems. Most leaders don't rely enough on delegation because it doesn't provide consistent results. What is usually inconsistent is their ability to delegate well.

Practice, practice, practice.