Clear the deck: How to delegate without dumping

Clear the deck: How to delegate without dumping


Clear the deck: How to delegate without dumping

Delegating work to others is both a critical leadership practice and a learned skill. When done well, delegating is not dumping; it is appropriate and productive. When executed poorly, however, delegating can result in frustration, low quality results, and fractured work relationships. So, how can we do it well?

When delegating tasks, follow these three steps:

  1. Set clear expectations. Make sure that you clearly communicate the expected deliverables and the dates they are needed. Any task delegated without a date is a wish, a hope, and a dream.
  2. Track the destination, not the steps. Snoopervising is the practice where a leader repeatedly follows up with an associate on the detailed steps they are taking to accomplish tasks. Hold people accountable to the deliverables and deadlines (the destination!), be there for them when they have questions, and revel in the fact that they will often do the job better than you ever could.
  3. Provide useful feedback. The purpose of feedback (positive or negative) is to improve performance in the future. Motivate your staff by telling them what they did right (or not-so-right), and how the result was affected by their actions. Delegation accompanied by feedback is an excellent development opportunity.

When receiving delegated tasks, you have the following responsibilities:

  • Ask questions. Make sure you understand the expected deliverables, the timelines, the stakeholders, and the budget for the delegated task. Make no assumptions, particularly for new projects. Get the facts.
  • Take meticulous notes. Note-taking will solidify your understanding of the delegated task and verify the expectations of the deliverables and timelines. Verify your notes with the person delegating the task to you.
  • Provide updates appropriately. Be proactive in updating your leader on the status of the task or project, but do not over-communicate details. Generally, you want to let them know whether you are: 1) on target, 2) need assistance, or 3) completely thwarted.

Delegation is a doorway to innovation and opportunity at work. Take a moment today to look at your calendar and your to-do list. What should you delegate?

Video tips: Are your meetings with your boss a waste of time?

One-on-one meetings between a manager and a direct report are standard components of most workplace communication efforts. However, these meetings are seldom as productive as they could be. The video below describes the key elements of an efficient and action-oriented one-on-one meeting.

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