Delegate with Success

Delegation is something we all want to do, yet we find it challenging. We recognize that we cannot do everything, but it is hard to pass off important things to others. Can we trust they will do it right? Or they will do it at all?

The deeper problem is delegation comes with a built-in conflict: we need to transfer ownership of a problem to somebody, yet at the same time, we know that if they fail to execute well enough, the ownership comes back to us. It is this paradox that can lead to us subverting our own effort in trying to delegate.

To avoid this problem, try to remember three things when delegating:

  1. Instruct - Clearly explain what you need, without saying how it should be done.
    • Define the result or product, without worrying so much about the details.
    • It is good to suggest ways it could be done, to help the person understand the scope, but do not proscribe the how.
    • Make sure the person understands the delegation has happened.
    • Make sure the person knows how they are to report on their progress, and completion.
  2. Respect the person and let them do it their own way!
    • They will do it differently than you would.
    • If you are genuine in delegating, then you must let the person act with freedom to do it differently than you.
    • If you focus on the result, then the method becomes less important, giving them the ability to own the task themselves.
    • For many, this is the most important, yet hardest part.
  3. Report - Check-in with the person and allow them to report on their status, regularly, and when they are finished.
    • Listen with the intent to understand, not to respond. Sometimes mis-communication of a report may be on the listener, not the reporter.
    • Make sure to recognize the person's best effort, even if it is not everything you expected. Somebody who feels appreciated will be motivated to improve. This is not the same thing as rewarding any result, regardless of success or not (something to avoid).
    • If they do not know how to report on completion, then you have not completed step #1 properly.

Understanding these three key points, think back to your own successes and failures in delegation, either on the receiving or giving end of the Relationship. It is likely you can identify numerous cases where simply adding one of these steps to the process would have greatly improved not only the delegation, but the overall Relationship.