Posted by: Bill von Achen | November 5, 2010

The Delegation Agenda

“The secret of success lies not in doing your own work, but in recognizing the right man (or woman!) to do it.”   Andrew Carnegie

Delegation is one of the most important skills a successful leader must develop.  Not only can effective delegation free you to work on the truly important projects sitting on your desk, it’s a tremendous tool to help others develop new skills and expand their abilities, thereby building the overall effectiveness of your organization. 

There are, of course, those executives who stubbornly refuse to delegate tasks, whether because they underestimate or mistrust the ability of others (whose fault is that?), or because of some deep-seated need for total control.  But, even putting aside these extreme cases, it’s surprising that so few business executives know how to delegate effectively to ensure the successful completion of the task or project they’ve delegated.

There are lots of reasons why our delegation efforts fail.  Frequently, we delegate tasks to the wrong people.  Sometimes, we have expectations that surpass even the abilities of the most capable of our people.  Then, there are times when we delegate tasks as a way of punishing people, and reap the predictable results.   

But the most common reason I’ve observed for delegation failures stem from the poor and incomplete initial communication that takes place when the task is actually being delegated.

In last week’s workshop on Effective Delegation (part of our Leadership Development workshop series), I detailed a short, 6-point approach that can help to ensure the success of any effort to delegate a task.  Here are the key elements of that approach: 

  1. Describe what the task is
  2. Tell when the task must be completed
  3. Explain why the task is important
  4. Detail what results are needed
  5. Confirm that the above elements are understood
  6. Agree on a process to follow-up on progress

Think about your own recent efforts to delegated a task in the context of this framework.  For example, we often do a good job of describing the task we’re delegating (it wouldn’t be much of a discussion if we didn’t!), but what happens when we fail to explain why the task is important?  We might say that the task is a priority, but do we specify the date by which it must be completed?  And do we always check to make sure that the other party has all of the essential information that they need to be successful?

Finally, do we establish a process that allows for frequent check points to ensure that the task is being handled consistent with our expectations?   

The 6-point approach detailed here is a simple recipe for success.  But, like any successful recipe, you can’t leave out any of the ingredients.

How effective are your delegation skills.  What approach (or approaches) do you take to ensure the success of your delegation efforts?  What makes them successful?  Post your comments and ideas here.  Thanks!

 


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