With a head smack, I often hear business leaders exclaim in frustration, “I will just do it myself” when delegated things do not happen. So why hire employees in the first place if nothing is done, or not done in the way you want it done? If you are frequently disappointed in the way your team executes perhaps the problem is not with your staff. As the cartoon character Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Delegation is the assignment of responsibility or authority to another person to carry out specific activities. It is one of the core concepts of leadership and one that many leaders fail. Poor delegation causes frustration and confusion to all the involved parties and if not corrected will result in not meeting key objectives. It will also cause the loss of talent in your organization.
To properly delegate a leader must start with two assumptions:
You hired capable people
Capable people want to perform
In other words, leaders do not intentionally hire dolts. If they do, then delegation is the least of their problems. The people hired do not come to work with an intent to perform badly. It is clear that the leader’s lack of delegation skills significantly contributes to the employee’s inability to perform.
4 key questions that should always be used in delegation:
Are you clear what needs to be done? The first mistake in delegation is vague instructions. Poor delegators assume the employees are mind readers and know what they know. Take time to be clear what is expected. Avoid phrases like a.s.a.p. or “when you can” regarding deadlines. Check for clarity on quality and quantity issues. Without this step disappointment is certain to occur.
Do you have the resources needed to accomplish the task? Resources include tools, material, information as well as skills and knowledge. Time is not considered a resource, but it is important that they are clear on priorities so that time is not an excuse. If the employee is not capable and equipped for success, then disappointment is certain to occur.
Do you understand you are responsible? A common mistake in delegation is a lack of clarity around who is actually responsible for the deliverables. In the interest of fostering teamwork, many leaders will over-use the pronoun “we”. This results in a diffusion of responsibility to the team or reverse delegation back to the leader. When the leader is vague about responsibility, disappointment is certain to occur.
What is your next step? Ending the conversation with this question will help make sure the employee gets started on the right foot. The summary question can be a second check on the first two questions and clearly establishes the accountability for the third question.
A leader must assess the risk involved in delegating the task as well as the confidence the leader has in the employee to determine the independence that employee operates with. Leaders should be stretching their employees. Delegated tasks should always require them to grow and learn. Mistakes are integral to the learning process and essential in developing your team. It is important then for the leader to establish a safety net to ensure the task will be completed even if mistakes are made. Example safety nets include early deadlines, frequent check-ins and assignment of complimentary team members.
It comes down to the question, should the leaders just do it themselves and avoid the pain and frustration of delegation? The answer is yes delegate. After all, you hired competent people who want to do the right thing. Delegation is a science when the leaders follow the four questions above. You can avoid head smacking disappointments.
Russell Lookadoo is the HR Guy for small businesses. His firm, HRchitecture, specializes in helping business leaders accomplish their goals by effectively using their teams. Russell brings over three decades of experience designing Human Resources solutions that achieve business strategies in varied organizations ranging from a small manufacturer to the nation’s second largest bank. Russell holds the Senior Professional in Human Resources designation from the Society of Human Resources Management and earned the Certified Compensation Professional designation from World at Work. Russell attended the University of North Carolina on the prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Industrial Relations. Visit his website at www.theHRGuy.biz