Over-delegation is in the eye of the delegator. One of my key execs listed “delegates too much” as a weakness in his annual review. His staff disagreed—70 percent said he didn’t delegate enough. My advice on delegating can be summed up in three words: Let ’erred! It develops employees as nothing else can. Hand over anything your people can do
■ Better than you
■ Quicker than you
■ At less cost than you
■ That will add to their development
■ That will free you for more important pursuits
Under-delegation is rampant. Micromanagers, take note. Many seat-of-the-panthers wear their resistance to parceling out tasks like a badge of honor. Others conceal it behind a wall of bravado. There are myriad excuses for under-delegating.
Experience has taught me that tough-not-rough delegation benefits everyone. Still, I’m not surprised that many seat-of-the-panthers refuse to hand off enough work: willy-nilly delegation creates more problems than it solves. Before plopping assignments on desks, do your delegation due diligence. Here are ten delegation directives:
Be clear: “Here you go, this baby’s all yours now.”
An employee who understands why she’s being asked to handle a task is more likely to execute it thoroughly.
Get the Wheels Turning
For complex projects, help the delegate develop an action plan by asking open-ended questions like “How do you see this unfolding?” and “What roadblocks do you anticipate, and how will you overcome them?”
Mutually agree on a completion date and time. Otherwise, the task may sink to the bottom of the delegate’s priority list.
Ask for a Recap.
Don’t assume the delegate perfectly understands the assignment. Always double-check: “To make sure I communicated clearly, please explain what you’re planning to do and why.” The answer may surprise you.
Monitor (but don’t smother)
The point is liberation, so don’t micromanage unless the delegate is untested or timing is critical. If she starts down the wrong path, say something like, “That might work, but have you considered going in this direction? What do you think that could yield?” Remember, the weekly one-on-one employee meeting is your forum for pinpoint advising.
Don’t retract an assignment at the first sign of trouble. That hurts confidence. Setbacks are learning opportunities, so coach the delegate back on track.
Play to a Delegate’s Strong Suit
Tailor assignments to people’s strengths. Don’t saddle a big-picture thinker with a pointillism project.
Assign specific duties to specific people, with zero overlaps. If there are two people involved, make it clear who’s in charge.
Up-and-comers need challenges, too. Avoid the temptation to overload your stars.