I believe the fine art of delegation is critical to success in any type of leadership role, especially as an entrepreneur. It’s another way of making your numbers work for you – not just the dollars, but time and other resources too. Here are my top 5 tips:
- Appropriateness – Make sure the task you want to delegate is appropriate both to be delegated and for the person you’ve chosen to handle the task. Take a good honest look at your specific reasons for delegating this task. Not enjoying a task doesn’t necessarily make it an appropriate task to delegate. Nor does thinking the task is beneath you. No task is really beneath a good leader. Does delegating this task give someone else on your team the opportunity to make a great contribution, to shine? If the task is outside the team member’s current skill set, does she have the drive and have you made available the resources for her to learn something new?
- Clarity – If you want successful results, make sure the desired outcome and your expectations are clearly defined and effectively communicated. For example “Joe, please have an analysis of last years sales by product on my desk by 2PM. It will be included in my presentation to the Board of Directors tomorrow. Call me if you have any questions.” This lets Joe know exactly what you need, when you need it, and how you need it – a polished presentation, not on the back of his lunch napkin. You have also let him know that you are a resource if he needs help, and that you expect him to use this resource if he gets stuck.
- Letting go – Once you have delegated a task, you must be willing to let go of the process (not the outcome, more on this later) and to give your team member space in which to do the work. If you can’t do that for a particular task, it’s probably not suitable for delegation. If you can’t do that for any task, your delegation skills probably need some work. Hovering, controlling, negativity and criticizing are simply not helpful here. Remember the wise words of General George S. Patton: “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
- Accountability – Be prepared to hold the team member accountable for the task. Did you get what you needed, when and how you needed it? If not, tell the team member what’s missing and when you need it. For example, “I see several typos in this report. Please make the corrections and return this to me before lunch.” You will note that this is accountability, not criticism. You hold the team member accountable for fixing his mistakes rather than berating him for making them. This approach gives people the opportunity to improve their work in the future. That is guaranteed to pay off for everyone involved!
- Feedback – Don’t forget to close the loop with feedback. How did this delegation work for you? How did it work for your team member? Ask yourself what one thing would you like to change for next time and write that answer down where you will see it again. And if you have a criticism, don’t forget to put it in a praise sandwich. More on that later!