Anamcgary's Blog

Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR

Delegating Tasks – Successfully!

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The following seven steps may help you in delegating tasks to achieve success. These tips can not only be used in your organization for more success, but in every aspect of your life to accomplish more.
1. Understand the Task – you must understand the task before you delegate it.  I can’t stress this on enough.

Make sure you understand the task so that you can clearly communicate the task to the person undertaking the task. You must also understand what barriers and resources are required to succeed.

Also, you must understand what tools you have to make the task successful. Along with resources needed, if the person isn’t progressing on the task, what options do you have as a leader and manager to make it successful? Questions you can ask is, “Can I provide additional training?” or “Can I acquire additional tools?” Or if they are not suited for the task, ask these questions, “Can I reassign them?” or if they turn out to be detrimental to the project or team, “What actions can I take to alleviate this situation?

2. Find the Right Person

Find the person who is motivated to take on the task. You may have someone who has the skills to do the task but is not motivated to do it. This situation will not work. However, if you have someone who doesn’t have the skills, but is highly motivated to learn and is excited about the opportunity, then this is a good candidate for delegation. The person must also be motivated to take on this task for the good of the group as well as his/her own motivations. You might ask, “How does this assignment help you achieve your career goals?” It also helps the person has good communications skills to express any concerns.
3. Communicate the Task

Take the time to clearly communicate the task. Communicate the expectations of the task. And most importantly, communicate the ownership of the task. What I mean is that the person assigned to the task will be ultimately responsible for the success of the task. When communicating responsibility for the task, let the person know the consequences of not completing the task and the rewards of completing the task. For example, you might say something like this:
“John, this report to justify the new computer system is important because if it is not done on time our department will not have the tools to meet our customer’s needs. By putting together the report by the June 15th deadline we will qualify for the new computer system which will allow our department to exceed customer service expectations, increase our organization’s bottom line and earn you a bigger bonus and positive exposure for future opportunities. I know you will do what it takes to make this happen.”
Note: If possible, show the employee how to do the task. Telling and showing the person delegated the task enhances the probability of his/her understanding and being confident with the task.
4. Provide Resources, Remove Barriers

Now is our opportunity to make sure that the person we are delegating the task to, has the resources. Whether it is the time, people, or technology, it is our responsibility to find out after understanding the task, picking the right person, and communicating the task to provide the resources for success. I have seen time and time again in a variety of organizations where the person delegated the task has the ownership for its success but doesn’t have the resources to be successful. Take the time to ask the following question, “What resources will you need to be successful?”
Also find out what barriers might be in the way to successful completion of the task and eliminate them. This could be people, organizational restrictions, or lack of knowledge. For example, with people, the task you assign might require the person assigned the task to work with someone who has a “challenging personality.” Knowing this, you could make sure that this person with the “challenging personality” understands the importance of this task so that he/she does not hinder the success of the task.
Note: Let the person delegated know that you have an open door should he/she have any questions concerning the task. Open communication is important for this arrangement to work.  When you provide resources and remove barriers for the person delegated the task, you are ensuring complete ownership for the success of the task.
5. Ensure Understanding

Make sure when the person leaves the meeting, that he/she understands exactly what is expected. The typical interaction between a manager or supervisor and the employee is the manager asks, “Do you understand everything we discussed?” and the employee of course says, “Yes.” Then a week later the manager is disappointed with the results of the task and asks, “What happened?” and the employee says, “I didn’t understand what I was supposed to do.” We set that employee up for failure by not taking the time to make sure he/she understood what was expected to make this task successful.
By asking the question, “John, do you understand the task at hand?” you receive a closed-ended, or yes or no, answer. It doesn’t give you one ounce of information on whether the person understands the project.
By asking an open-ended question, “John, please share with me your understanding of what is required to make this task successful?” the person giving the answer is required to give a comprehensive answer detailing his/her thoughts on the task at hand. The answer will give you an indication as to whether the task is understood or not. Also, at this point, the employee may give you in the answer a totally different and better way to accomplish the task.
6. Encourage Success

Let the person delegated the task know that you have confidence in him/her. Remember, in most cases, this task is new to him/her and by communicating that you have confidence that he/she will be successful gives the confidence to succeed. You might say something like:
“John, I’m glad we had the time to go over this task today and you understand what is required to be successful. I am excited and confident that you will make this task your own and put your unique spin on it. I look forward to hearing about your progress on this task and the successes along the way to its completion. Thank you for undertaking this very important task.”
7. Follow-up, Reward, Follow-up, Reward

Make sure you know the level of follow-up required. One factor is the person you are delegating the task to and his/her level of knowledge and confidence concerning the task. Ask! Some people may want much follow-up, while other may require little follow-up. It also depends on how difficult the task is to complete.

Make sure you have scheduled follow-ups. Before you leave the first meeting, make sure you schedule your first follow-up; whether it is one day or week, schedule that first follow-up. 

Reward progress at each follow-up meeting and in public if possible. Show appreciation in the meeting and, if possible, in public so that everyone is motivated to do more.

Correct to get back on track. In most cases it may be as simple as showing the correct way of doing the task or brainstorming so that the person responsible for the task will come up with the solution. This will keep the person and your team motivated toward the end result.

 I am sure there are many other ways people have successfully delegated in their business and personal lives and I welcome your suggestions and experiences.


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