Delegation is the least skilled area for most leaders. Once a group or an individual makes a decision, the next step is to determine, "Who will do what, when, and to what standard?" Delegation is the process of sharing responsibility for results. Leaders determine the ultimate objectives to be met and the resources available, yet you share and collaborate on the plan of action. Given it is so important, you have to wonder why the science of delegation isn’t given more attention. Here are some simple steps to remind us of the importance of delegation and how to do it.
Identify the Need
Establish what you choose to delegate. Create a picture of what you want the outcome to be. You have so many priorities but only limited time. So, decide what can be delegated and the benefits which will flow from delegating that task.
Select the Person
Identify to whom you will delegate and why you have chosen that person. The delegation may favour a specific strength in that person or you may see it as a developmental opportunity for them. The key is to look carefully at the selection criteria and not just look for who is not busy at the moment.
Steps 1 and 2 may be reversed depending on desired purpose of delegation.
Plan the Delegation
Desired outcome: What is the outcome to be accomplished in the scope of this delegation plan? Create a picture of what you want to the outcome to be.
Current situation: Determine the reality of the current situation. Where are you today? As a leader, you need to make a thorough estimate of the situation, both internally and externally, to obtain a clear understanding of the factors that might help or hinder your efforts and enable you to set realistic goals.
Goals: Define and set the goals. These realistic goals are checkpoints that create mutual expectations and form the basis for most important management decisions. Leaders know that without goals, people will be task-oriented rather than results-oriented. As a leader, you must set realistic, reasonable, challenging, and attainable goals and then separate those goals into bite-sized pieces, which may be assigned to individuals in line with their particular skills and abilities. This makes these goals less formidable and more achievable. The clear communication of the goal is critical. We usually manage to impart the What and sometimes the How, but we often miss the Why. When your team achieves day-to-day goals, you are closer to achieving intermediate and long-range goals.
Hold a Delegation Meeting
During the meeting:
Identify specific results to be achieved. Clearly identify what you want the final result to be.
Outline the rules and limitations. Clearly state what aspects of a goal cannot change and are not negotiable.
Review the performance standards. Set the performance standards with the individual and review the criteria for clarity and agreement. Definitely include the follow-up timetable, especially at the start. The biggest nightmare with delegation is the project is taken off on a tangent and by the time you discover it needs correction, the time pressure becomes overwhelming.
Create a Plan of Action
The person who has been delegated the task should develop a plan of action that explains the steps that will be taken to accomplish the goal. You could hand them over the plan but you would still own it. We want them to own it, so let them create it.
Review the Plan
Meet with the person who has been delegated the task to discuss the plan of action. Make any necessary adjustments until both parties are in agreement.
Implement the Plan
Plans are implemented when everyone understands their part in the total undertaking, commits themselves to the achievement of the results, and acts in a unified, concerted manner to put the plan into action. If the plan is clear then he implementation is usually not a difficulty.
Successful leaders follow up on previous goals established in the third step of delegation by maintaining an effective follow-up process that demonstrates deviations from the expected goals. It is critical the delegator not become too involved in the specific details but concentrate on those factors that are critical to the success of the project so that corrective action can be taken and goals achieved.
Delegation, done correctly, is a powerful tool to expand the leader’s range of possibilities. Time spent on tasks of the highest value should be the sole goal. The reality is, we get sucked into spending inordinate amounts of time on minutiae of microscopic importance. This is where we have to be clear about the opportunity cost of spending out time in areas where we should have delegated it in the first place. If you ever hear yourself saying, "It will be quicker if I do it myself" hit the big red emergency button and immediately start planning your next delegation.