Delegation, Part 3: Who, How to Delegate?

Now that you see the true value of delegating well, and have a handle on the kinds of tasks that are best to delegate, we get down to the business of choosing someone to delegate to, and the process of how to delegate the task in a way that is structured, thorough, developmental, and practical.

Check out that one all-important tip at the end of the video that helps to seal the deal and make this an effective tool for both you and your team.

[Watch the video above or read the transcript below]

It’s time to Delegate or Die –  every minute of your day is taken up and the work load seems to keep on increasing.  But all that work is stopping you from doing those important things you need to get done as a leader.

In previous videos, we’ve talked about seeing delegation of tasks as a development opportunity for your team, and discussed a good way to select what tasks to delegate.

Now it’s time to get the job done, so today we’re going to talk about the how of delegating, and at the end of the video I’ll introduce you to the one simple way to multiply your success at this critical skill.

Don’t be a “Hey, You!” Delegator

Ever been on the receiving end of a “Hey You” tasking?  You know, the kind where you just happen to be walking by, and the busy leader sees you and tells you that he needs something vague done right away, then has to run off in another direction before you get a chance to ask any questions?

You probably feel more like a victim than someone who is being developed and trained.  And that approach might impact your overall enthusiasm about doing the job.

What’s a better way to go about this, you ask?

Deciding on “Who”

When you are the leader, it pays to think a little bit about who should get the task that you have in mind.  When answering the “Who” you can ask yourself a couple questions, and if you know your people well, then the answer will come to you.  Ask questions like:

 Position. Whose position does this task best fit?

 Potential.  Who has the potential to learn and excel at this task?

 Interest.  Who seems ready and interested in learning and taking on more responsibility?

 Workload.  What is the right workload balance for your team?

 Readiness.  And finally, Is the person ready for a task of this size?    Since you are training and developing, it’s best to start people out with smaller tasks; as your team mates learn and grow, they will be able to handle larger and more important ones.  Be careful not to put them into a sink-or-swim situation with a large, critical task right off the bat.

How to Delegate

OK, now that you have your candidate, it’s time to sit down with them to talk about it, and make the hand-off official.  It might help to think of this as a contract, where both of you give and get things out of the exchange.

He’s agreeing to take on the task, do the work, and learn in the process.  You are agreeing to provide the resources, guidance, and training to get the job done; your benefit is time to focus on other areas.

In your discussion, start by putting the task in context of the bigger picture.  If they know why their task is important and how it will impact the rest of your efforts, they can make informed choices when it comes time to execute.

 Delegate the What.  Delegate the purpose, not the procedure.  General Patton once famously said, “Never tell people how to do things.  Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”  So focus on what the end product looks like, not so much on how to do it.

Delegate the purpose, not the procedure. Click To Tweet

 Be SMART about it.  Make it a smart goal.  If you think in terms of making the task Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound, you’ll both have a clear idea of what needs to get done and when.

 Plan for Follow-ups.  Not only should you have a due date at the end, but plan for some follow-ups along the way.  It could be a simple weekly check in, or as they reach key decision points, schedule a specific date to meet to check on progress and provide guidance.

 Provide Resources.  Give them access to the resources they need.  Are there certain things you control that they will need, like equipment, funding, meeting time or space?  And don’t forget about authority – what decisions is it OK for them to make, and which ones do you want to come back to you?

 Provide Training.  What training do they need?  To set them up for success you need to show them the way.  Think about what specific skills or knowledge they might need to complete the task, then plan to show them how, or coordinate for another team member to show them the way.

Sometimes paring them up with a more experienced teammate can be a great way to get them trained without requiring more of your time.  List the skills they will need and have a plan for how to teach them.

Following Up

Once you have launched them out into the wide world to do their task, be sure to check in on them from time to time.  Stick to your follow-up schedule, show interest in their progress, but don’t micro-manage; the minute you start making decisions for them that they should be making, or doing things they should be doing, you start to own the task again, and that defeats the whole purpose.

Related post:  Delegating Effectively:  It’s Not Tennis

If you do all these things, you should probably have a pretty good experience with your adventure in delegation.  But if you want to take it to the next level, there is one more vitally important thing that you can do that will make a huge difference:  give them some recognition.

A little recognition can go a long way. #Leadership Click To Tweet

It’s simple, it’s free, and it’s important, but in the day-to-day chaos, leaders sometimes forget to do it, or worse, take credit for themselves.   Giving them deserved credit for their work will help them feel good about the part they played for the team and they will be all the more willing to pitch in again when the time comes.

So be sure to thank them, both personally, and in public if appropriate – it will mean a lot to them.

How to Delegate – The Takeaway

Delegating is much more than dumping your least favorite tasks on the nearest unsuspecting teammate.  If you do it right, you are building a stronger team with more depth, and freeing up more time for you to do those critical leader tasks you’ve been too busy to get to.

The key is to be deliberate about the process and willing to invest a little effort up front to ensure a positive outcome.

Lead on!

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About the Author: Ken Downer
Ken Downer - Founder RapidStart Leadership

Ken served for 26 years in the Infantry, retiring as a Colonel.  From leading patrols in the Korean DMZ, to parachuting into the jungles of Panama, to commanding a remote outpost on the Iran-Iraq border, he has learned a lot about leadership, and has a passion for sharing that knowledge with others.  Look for his weekly posts, check out his online courses, subscribe below, or simply connect, he loves to talk about this stuff.

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