Delegate like a pro

Think of a time when someone explained to you what they wanted you to do. You received clear instructions, patient responses to your questions, encouragement to describe how you’d do it to ensure you ‘got it,’ with follow up that worked for both of you toward a successful outcome. If a mental picture of a positive experience comes to mind, you’re lucky. You have a good example to keep in mind when delegating to others.
If, like many, you have numerous crummy examples that come to mind (like that time so-and-so dumped a project in your lap and left), then you have an opportunity to do for others what you wish had been done for you.

Here are 8 proven steps for delegating smoothly so you get what you want in the end.

  1. When delegating something new or to someone for the first time, expect it to take longer than doing it yourself. You may think, “I don’t have time to delegate.” Or, “If I want it done right within a tight deadline, I’m better off doing it myself.” True, in some cases. But, if you keep doing what someone else has the skills to do, or could grow into doing well, then you’re not providing development opportunities, nor are you allowing yourself to expand your own capability.
  2. Clearly describe what you’re requesting, and what led you to select this person to do it. Tell them what their expertise contributes or the growth this provides for them. It will go a long way in getting them to do their best work.
  3. This is key: Describe your vision of the successful outcome. It helps the delegatee understand the goal and what’s possible because of it.
  4. Ask open-ended questions to ensure understanding. Instead of, “Got it?” try,“What’s fuzzy that I can clear up so you can do your best work?” Expect to hear different perspectives on how to accomplish the goal. Depending on the complexity, it may be fine if their approach differs from what you would do, as long as the outcome is the desired result.
  5. Talk about follow up: frequency, format, expectations (yours and theirs). Agree on the best approach.
  6. Ask what might keep them from doing what they say they will do. Be sure YOU do what you say you will do.
  7. Have an open door for additional questions, clarifications. Remember, you’re developing this person to do their best. It’s a jumping off point for both of you.
  8. Give credit for progress and completions. Encouragement stimulates courage.

I hope this helps you move something off your plate with confidence. Keep in mind, these strategies work for peers and partners, too.

I’d love to hear about an experience you’ve had with delegating. Successes — and horror stories — are welcome!

P.S. To read my horror story about using the words “I need” when delegating, see last week’s message.

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