Delegating with Authority

This Is a Simple Process Anyone Can Learn

If you’re one of the many business professionals today trying to do more in less time, you know that delegation is a must. Unfortunately, the majority of business people reveal that they dislike delegating.

Either they believe the delegated task will “fall through the cracks” and never get done, or that it will get done, but not to their liking. As such, they refuse to delegate anything to anyone unless it’s absolutely necessary, and even then they often opt to work longer hours rather than turn the task over to someone else.

Realize, though, that not delegating causes more stress to you and leads others to believe that you don’t trust them or don’t want them to take on new responsibilities. That’s when people view you as a “control freak” who refuses to let anything go.

The good news is that effective delegation follows a simple process that anyone can learn. And whether you’re a manager overwhelmed with deadlines and meetings or a business owner trying to stay on time with multiple projects and travel schedules, the following five tips will enable you to delegate effectively and be more productive.

1. Be committed to the full delegation cycle.

Proper delegation is actually a cycle. Think of it like the links of a chain, where each link interacts with others. Every link has four points, just as the delegation cycle does.

The top of the link intertwines and comes away from the link above it. This represents the task coming to you from some other source, such as a supervisor or customer.

The link then circles around and interacts with the links next to it and below it. One side of the interaction represents you delegating portions of the assignment to others.

The other side of the interaction represents you following up to get a report from the people you delegated to.

Finally, the link completes the cycle and returns to its point of origin. This represents you forwarding the report, decision, or findings to the source that originally gave you the task.

Be sure to complete all four points of interaction with every assignment. If you neglect any of these four points, the link is broken, and the chain loses its strength. That’s when the delegation process fails.

2. Delegate in writing.

Often the delegation process breaks down because the person being delegated to is unclear on the details of the assignment. And rather than ask you for clarification (and possibly appear incompetent), the person sits on the assignment, hoping you’ll give some additional clues about what you really want. That’s why you need to put every delegated task in writing.

The written document can be a simple E-mail, or it can be something more formal, such as a detailed process sheet. The purpose of writing the task out is that it causes you to slow down enough and include all the details someone needs to complete the task successfully. Additionally, your written note provides clarification for the person who receives it. He or she can refer back to your written instructions while doing the task to make sure the work is being done right.

Yes, written delegation takes more time then verbal delegation. However, remember that for every minute you spend writing out the details, you save one hour in execution.

3. Train your team members to report back on time.

In your written instructions, be sure to tell people when you want them to report back to you, both with progress updates and the final product. Be specific. For example, rather than say, “please give me regular updates on your progress,” say, “please provide me a status update every Friday at 2 p.m. for the next two months, or until the project is completed.” And instead of saying, “finish this by Wednesday,” say, “please complete this task by noon on Wednesday.” Being specific removes any guesswork and enables your team to live up to your expectations.

When team members report back on time, make a big deal about it. Thank them for completing the assignment, and congratulate them for reporting back within the timeframe outlined. Likewise, when they fail to report back on time, make an even bigger deal about it. Even if they completed the task but didn’t report back to you with the final product, help them realize that reporting back is every bit as important as getting the task done. With every delegated assignment, you need to reinforce the importance of reporting back in a timely manner.

4. Use a reminder system to ensure proper followup.

Never delegate an assignment and completely leave it up to the other person to make sure it gets done. Just as the person you delegate to needs to be accountable for reporting in, you need to be accountable for following up.

Your reminder system can be your daily planner, a tickler file system, or any other system that works for you. Place a note in your reminder system to follow up with a team member if you have not received the report, update, or task as requested. So if you give the team member the deadline of Friday at 2 p.m. for a progress update, then you enter into your own reminder system to follow up with the person at 4 p.m. if he or she does not meet that deadline. Give the team member the full opportunity to report to you before you track the individual down for followup.

Important: Only follow up when the person misses a requested update or deadline. You don’t want to train people that you will be following up with them on a regular basis, because that leaves the task’s responsibility with you. Rather, you want to train them that they are expected to report back to you, making them responsible for the delegated item. That’s why you set the progress updates and deadlines in writing. If they don’t report as scheduled, you must follow up. If they don’t report and you don’t follow up, the delegation cycle is broken, and the process fails.

5. Report back to the person you received the assignment from.

Just because you receive the delegated task back completed (and to your satisfaction) doesn’t mean you’re done. Always remember to complete the cycle by reporting back to the person who initially gave you the task. Tell your boss the findings; give the customer the information he or she needed; share your report with the board. Keep the communication chain intact so others learn that they can trust you as well.

Delegate to Win

If you want to free up some of your time so you can focus on your core duties or income producing activities, you need to delegate effectively. So examine those tasks that are repetitive in nature and decide which ones someone else can do. Then delegate effectively by writing out your task, training people to report on time, doing proper followup, and finally completing the cycle and reporting your results.

Taking the time to get the delegation process right pays great dividends, in the form of increased productivity, on-track company objectives, and reduced work-related stress.

Christi Youd is a speaker, trainer, and president of Organize Enterprise, LLC. Trained by the National Association of Professional Organizers, she has more than 20 years of experience helping companies and individuals increase productivity with organization, time management, and change;www.organizeenterprise.com