“Delegation requires the willingness to pay for short term failures in order to gain long term competency.” ~Dave Ramsey
"Delegating work works, provided the one delegating works, too." - Robert Half
Delegating is one of the most difficult tasks for any manager or supervisor because what got us to our leadership position is in contrast to this necessary trait. Most of us get to our positions by taking ownership over the tasks that we are given. However, in leadership, we need to give up that control over each task to take control over the direction and vision of the organization. The captain of the ship can’t be sweeping the decks and maintaining the engines and still expect to steer the ship. Too often when thinking of this transition we take it to the emotional extreme and feel like delegating requires us to lose our control. This couldn’t be further from the truth:
Delegating is about maintaining control NOT about losing control.
We maintain control over the end result and some of the process, but we do not maintain TOTAL control over EVERYTHING. In these cases you maintain oversight over many areas while work is done by your staff on the specifics. This won’t work for all tasks (at least not right away), but if you are like me, you have tasks that are still on your plate that you can unload with minimal effort. Here are a few basics to get you started.
Set deadlines tighter than the actual needed – One of the areas where delegation goes awry is when we delegate something, get to the deadline, and then find that our staff has done something wrong. This is often cited as a reinforcing reason not to delegate “If I had just done it myself this wouldn’t have happened”. But in this case you gave away control, you didn’t maintain it. Remember, we are looking for flexible ways to maintain control. One of those is to set the deadline for your staff well before the actual deadline that allows you to review their work and determine if anything needs to be reworked, adjusted, or added
Start with “non-fuzzy” tasks like reports or processes – The clearer the process or result required the better. Another area of self-sabotage for potential delegators is that the tasks delegated do not have clear guidelines. This is where the inexperienced staff can go wrong and you are left cleaning up afterwards. Processes, reports, and other routine tasks should be the focus of delegating. This allows you to quickly step in, assess progress and results then step out, which is key to being able to maintain control. Tasks that require creativity and opinion are much more difficult to control and therefore should be some of the last you delegate.
Start them off right – 5 minutes to set the course and direction is not going to derail your day and will likely save you even more time down the road. If you focus on starting the delegated task off right, and laying out the course, you will find success far more likely.
Checkpoints are Required – The most common way of maintaining control instead of losing it is to check in on the progress. Establishing checkpoints is the best way to maintain the control while your staff does the work. Any corrections that need to be done can be done on the fly at that time and you can be aware of things without being absorbed by them
Again, delegating is about maintaining control over something while not doing all of the work. If you choose the right tasks to delegate and set up a means for you to review progress at certain points, you will find yourself far more successful at delegating and feeling like you have control.