Why is delegation an important topic to learn about? Because effective delegation increases job performance, relieves job burnout, decreases workloads, builds teamwork, alleviates stress and allows you to get more done.
A while back I read a great little book called If You Want It Done Right, You Don’t Have to Do It Yourself! by Donna M. Genett, Ph.D. Here’s a summary of what I’ve learned.
1. Effective delegation requires advanced preparation. BEFORE you meet with someone to delegate responsibilities you must think through 1) what you want done, 2) how you want it done, 3) when you want it done, 4) as well as what authority you’re willing to give to the person doing the assignment
2. Then you must clearly define and describe each task you delegate to your staff. You need to be specific and ask for the instructions to be repeated back to ensure he/she fully understands what is expected.
3. Then you need to clearly define the time frame within which the task must be completed. Your staff can’t turn something in “late” if YOU never gave them a deadline.
4. Next, you must define the level of authority your staff has to complete the task. Do they have the authority to only recommend what should be done (i.e. research options and propose the best alternative)? Do they have the authority to inform and initiate (i.e. research and select the best course of action; inform me why it is best, and then initiate the selection)? Or do they have the authority to act (i.e. full authority to act with respect to the task or project)? Your staff can’t step outside the bounds of their authority if you haven’t explained the boundaries to them.
5. When a task or project becomes larger and more complex, it’s important to build in checkpoints. They help you make sure things are going in the right direction. The checkpoints should be close together in the beginning of the project. Later, after the person demonstrates competence and shows he or she is headed down the right track, the checkpoints can be spaced further apart. That way, you don’t let a lot of time go by during which the project is invisible to you. If things get off track, you can catch them before they get serious.
6. Conclude the delegation process with a debriefing session to discuss: 1) what went well, 2) what could have been improved, and 3) what has been learned. Both the delegator and the delegatee should share their answers to these questions.
Note: These points can be applied upward when receiving a project, as well as downward when delegating one. If you aren’t given clear instructions on a project your boss delegates to you, go ahead and ask for 1) the desired results for the project, 2) the time frame for completion, 3) your level of authority, and 4) when you’ll meet along the way to make sure you’re on track.