Almost every leader I talk to seems to be moving faster than the speed of sound. The pace of leadership can be astounding and thrilling, but it has it's downside. Have you ever felt like you delegated a task to someone and then days go bye and you find out that the person you delegated to didn't really get it? Have you ever felt like you clearly communicated your expectations but your employee missed the point?
I was recently discussing this phenomenon with a senior executive and was struck by how common this is. We reflected on several past experiences and realized that more often than not leaders think they delegate clearly and thoroughly, while employees beg to differ. Just walk into any organization, talk to people, and you will see this phenomenon at play. Leaders think they are clear and employees think their leaders are as clear as mud. The truth is, delegation is not as easy as it sounds. Delegating is much more complicated than simply telling others what to do. However, there are a number of things you can do to delegate more efficiently and effectively. Here are 4 steps you can take to become a delegation pro.
- Keep a master task list - One of the most common challenges that leaders face is keeping on top of all of their commitments. Leadership, by it's nature, is fluid, dynamic, and constantly shifting to meet the demands of an unknown future. Therefore, it is important that you have a system - or a portable brain - to keep track of all of the commitments you have made. Your list should include items with specific deadlines, items assigned to others, and items you might get to someday. David Allen - in his book Getting Things Done - talks about doing a data dump and getting everything out of your head and into a system. He also talks about ways to organize your list and your life in general.
- Delegate at the appropriate level - Another common mistake is that leaders delegate work in a way that doesn't meet the recipient where they are. For example, have you ever told a person: "I just want you to handle it and report back to me" when that person clearly didn't have the knowledge or experience to "handle it"? We have all made that mistake and it results in frustration for all parties and usually a negative outcome. When you delegate to someone you have to delegate in a way that meets them where they are. If the task is new to the employee you are going to have to delegate in a different way than if they have done it before. Michael Hyatt has an excellent blog post called the 5 Levels Of Delegation where he outlines a way to make it clear what level of authority you are giving others when you delegate to them. The 5 levels provide a great way to think about every delegation you make and set others up for success.
- Decide if your delegation is a demand or a request - Their is a distinction that you should be aware of before you delegate. Are you making a demand or are you making a request? The problem arrises when you think you are making one but phrase the delegation as the other. For example, imagine that you want someone to brief a client - in person - on your new product on Monday at 11:00 AM. If you delegate the task by saying: "Will you brief the client on our product early next week?" you made a request and not a demand. By stating the demand as a question you opened up the door for a "No" response. If you want something done and you want it done a certain way you should make a demand. If you want to give your employee flexibility make a request.
- Delegate in a clear an concise way - Have you ever found yourself in conversation where you are trying to delegate a task to someone, sense that they don't get it, and find yourself rambling in an effort to help them see your vision more clearly? This is the exact opposite of how you want to delegate. Delegations should be short and sweet - clear and concise. A delegation that is a demand should sound like this: "John, I need your help. I need you to do an in-person briefing for the XYZ client on our ABC service next Monday at 2:00 PM." A delegation that is a request should sound like this: "John, I need your help. Can you do an in-person briefing for the XYZ client on our ABC service next Monday at 2:00 PM?" There is not need to ramble on and on. If the person you delegated to has questions you can listen and respond concisely, but if you find yourself talking too much - in order to explain the delegation - you are rambling and diluting the delegation. Remember to keep it short and sweet.
Implemented appropriately these 4 steps will help you delegate efficiently, effectively, and get more done. In addition, by being mindful of the way you delegate and implementing these four steps you will achieve better results.
Questions: Are you delegating as efficiently and effectively as you would like? What else can be done to improve your delegation skills?