As coaches and consultants, we find that people regularly struggle with delegation and they tend to feel uncomfortable admitting it because they believe they should know how to do it.
In our experience, delegating is a challenging skill; one that few of us are taught. People are frequently told they should “just delegate that” but when they try, they don’t get the results they hoped for so they give up delegating and just heap it onto their already full plate of work. So, today we thought we would share with you our philosophy of delegation and three steps that will create more successful results when you delegate to others.
We have seen that individuals are most successful when they are engaged in a process and can influence how it unfolds. Yet often when managers are delegating work, they hand off a task with no context, without sharing how the task supports the larger effort, and without explaining how they will need to work with (or around) others to get the task done. As you get ready to delegate we want you to remember two words: engagement and influence. Engagement and influence matter whether you are delegating to a C-suite colleague, a supervisor or staff member, a person who is working on your home, or even when you are delegating something to your child.
Engagement and Influence are established when you consider these three steps as you are delegating a task or project:
Step 1: Context
- Explain to the person you are delegating to the larger context. What you are trying to get done, how it fits into the big picture and why what you are asking of them is important.
- Think about it, when you ask someone to do something for you, they will be much more likely to succeed if they understand what you are trying to achieve and that their contribution is important and valued. You have engaged them in the larger process and they can see that their work matters.
Step 2: Content
- Tell them the specifics of what you need done. Really talk it through with them. Describe what success looks like, who they need to work with or ask information from to succeed, what the timeline is for the effort, and what the potential ripples will be of this going well or going poorly.
- Again, if people know what you are asking of them, they can give you feedback on whether they can actually do what you are asking, in the timeframe that you need it, working with others or alone. They have an opportunity to influence you as you determine how you’d like them to move forward.
Step 3: Connection
- Be explicit about how you will follow up or how you’d like them to follow up. Do not hand something off and act like it’s going to be done. While you would hope that the person you are delegating to will let you know if they can’t get it done, have run into an obstacle, or are struggling to understand exactly what you wanted, it’s not all that likely that they will do so unless you two have agreed on check-ins to make sure it’s going well and to help them navigate any difficulties they are having.
- People do best when they feel connected to the person who has delegated to them and have a sense of the ways their work is directly helpful. These check-ins are an opportunity to remind them of the ways the work is helpful to you and to help them understand any new information you have, as things unfold.
The ability to delegate is critical to success in work and life but delegation is not simply handing someone a task and hoping it will get done. It takes some time and effort to ensure success. What you will find is that as you delegate effectively to the people in your life, you will build a trusting working relationship that will allow you both to be more effective and successful over time.
This week, as you think of those things you need to ask of someone else, practice these three steps and we believe you will have great success and find more satisfaction in the process.