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As leaders, we often find ourselves in situations where we are repeating ourselves. Wouldn’t it be ideal if we could have a ‘one and done’ philosophy where our team is given a task or project and it is completed to spec? What if I told you that this isn’t just a dream? I’ve worked with clients that have team members who embrace ‘one and done’ and these leaders no longer have the drudgery of back and forth. The solution to ineffective delegation is formulaic and quick to implement.
There is effective delegation, and there is “rubber band” delegation: when we delegate something and it snaps back to us.
. The result? More energy, better results from your team, and less frustration for you.
5-Step Effective Delegation Process
- What are the capabilities (skills required) for a given project/task?
- Check on a person’s capacity (do they have time) and capability (do they have the ability/skills to do the task). Match the person with the project. They are now called the “Owner.”
- Explain the project/task you want the Owner to do, and check in to make sure clear communication has occurred. Say “I would like to increase the clarity of my communication. So could you please echo back to me what you understood so I may ensure I communicated clearly?” Let the Owner echo back what they heard, clarifying gaps and adding whatever may have been missed, paying careful attention to the specifics of what the deliverable is, exact due date and times.
- Now ask how the Owner would like to ensure they get results—what is their plan? Use the Outcome Frame and Decision Framework below to help them form a success plan.
- Have the Owner track the delegated task via Basecamp, Trello, your Weekly Status template, whatever method project management system you use. Ensure you have a structure in place so communication is honest when a project/task needs to be rescheduled or deadline renegotiated. Most of my clients find dividing a complex project into a series of smaller projects increases visibility, and ensures that weekly deadlines keep momentum. Then if a deadline needs to be moved the impact isn’t as severe, since the deliverable is much smaller. Set a standard for renegotiation when a deadline will be missed. Most of my clients have a 48-72 hour advance notice when it appears a deadline is in peril.
This fosters ownership and reduces the likelihood of the order giver-order taker dynamic—which crushes the spirit of ownership, innovation, and empowerment.
Here’s a decision framework my clients like. Feel free to edit this process to serve your needs best.
- Define problem/situation to be addressed and who owner/decision maker truly is – is this MY decision to make or can I just be a consultant/strategist to the decision maker? If not you, enroll the decision maker to complete the following steps.
- Determine desired outcome/result – use the Outcome Frame to inquire and distill the true desired result.
- Perform decision due diligence: what is the timeline, research required, budget impact, departments/products/people who will/may be impacted. For very simple decisions you’ll zoom through this step very quickly.
- Determine who will own the outcome being successful/who will implement it? This should be clear from the Outcome Frame. Enroll them and ensure clear communication.
- Determine who will monitor the success post-decision. Assign them, noting they may be different from person in #4—they will likely be the decision maker in #1 above.
Why Delegation Fails
Often delegation fails simply because we didn’t follow the processes above. It’s important to consider the following two questions when pondering why delegation isn’t working effectively in your company.
- Are we building/increasing capabilities in our people so they can take on more projects? (You’ll want to include the specifics in the person’s Individual Development Plan.)
- Do we need to create more safety, belonging, mattering in our culture, so it’s OK to be an Owner?
The answers will empower you to see into your blindspots while the processes above will ensure that your team embraces the ‘one and done’ philosophy. Effective delegation increases the amount of time that you will have to focus on the items that will move the needle in your business.