Of course you cannot do everything that’s on your plate. Need to delegate effectively in order to achieve your goals. And practice, however, it’s not that easy. When asking employees that have to do tasks that have been delegated to them, you often hear the following criticisms:
- Now that my boss has delegated this task to me, he’s constantly behind my back asking questions about how am I getting on and so forth. Why did (s)he delegate this task to meet then in the first place?
- First (s)he gives me that task, then (s)he leaves me alone, shuts the door and whenever I would have any questions I could never get any answer. I’m stuck and I don’t know how to proceed with this. This is frustrating.
- Why are we doing this at all? We have done this for years and it hasn’t got the company anywhere. This is a waste of time and money. But whatever, the boss is requiring it and I’m doing it.
There are dozens and probably hundreds of remarks like this. Delegation is an art and requires a lot of attention.
First, you need to get out of your mind, that you don’t have to deal with this task any more. Of course you have to. You need to brief the person you are delegating to.You need to answer any questions, at the beginning, during the process, and especially at the end.Often, the delegated task is a part of a larger task that’s on your desk. You need to plan times when it is appropriate to check about the status, clarifying open issues and so forth. For larger tasks and project management, this is called milestones. For smaller tasks, you need to set early deadlines, so you can make amendments as necessary before your own deadline runs out.
Second, get rid of the fear of letting go. Overcome your fear, that only you can do this task properly and in time. If you catch yourself micromanaging your employee whom you have delegated this task to, you will hear some of the comments mentioned above, or you can read it in their body language.
Third, prepare a “frame” for the task: the deadline, resources for the person, you are delegating to, times when you are available for any questions. Create early (pre-)deadlines or milestones, depending on the size of the task, so you can make amendments. Figure out, what the worst thing is that can happen, if the results are not as expected. What do you need to do to make amendments? How quickly can you react? Do you have the resources to do that?
Fourth, always keep in mind, that delegation is an excellent way of motivating your employees. Don’t only focus on time-saving. Concentrate on making your employees grow. Give them tasks, that are slightly beyond their comfort zone. Under-challenged people get easily bored and start to run on autopilot. Over-challenged people get nervous and scared. Which leads us to point number five:
Fifth, the better you know your employees, the better you can delegate to them. Try to explore the key strengths and weaknesses of your reports. Try to estimate: what kind of learner all these people are. Do they prefer someone who demonstrates them what to do and how to do it? Or do they expect an instruction? What degree of freedom do they need to carry out the tasks in an optimum way?
Jens Moeller Consulting Ltd.
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