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©2017 by Colin Gold

Delegation- The Black Hole of getting things done

May 21, 2019


It was around 4 pm after a hectic day, that I asked Joe, one of the managers I supervised, to join me in my office.  I wanted to catch up on a few outstanding items.


Side note before we go any further: I had just purchased my first iPhone, the iPhone 4. The phone is a marvel, and to this day, it is still my favorite iPhone design. I was a tech geek even back then, and I had reminder lists as long as my forearm on paper, however, after purchasing my iPhone, I began using the Reminder app; keeping everything in a digital format.


We sat down and started to discuss the items on my list I had assigned, or delegated to him.


As our discussion progressed, I could see Joe was becoming uncomfortable with each topic.  It was clear he was not prepared to discuss my endless list of follow-ups. By continuing this conversation, I did nothing to move us closer to the timely completion of the tasks or to motivate Joe.


I am sure Joe left that conversation cruising me under his breath.


As I look back on that day, I think about how I might have that same conversation now?


My digital list had no notes other than the title of each task. The record didn't have any additional information, such as the date the task was assigned, timeframe for completion, how the task would be accomplished or when/if team members should check-in with status.


I failed Joe. I did not set this emerging manager up for success. Rather, I directed him to get things done, with no direction, no guideline on my expectations for completion.


It got me thinking what does it take to delegate effectively?


Try these four things:


Choose the right person:


You need to get the task/project completed; however, you are not able to tackle it yourself. Choose the best person; the one most qualified and has the time necessary to dedicate to the project.


If you delegate to an unqualified team member, are you going to get the results you need?


For example, anyone who knows me would never ask me to provide my proofreading skills. Ask Belinda, who helps with these newsletters. I have the ideas and can put them on paper; however, proofreading is not a strong skill I possess. I would not be the right person to proofread anything.


Next, find the person who will provide you the desired outcome.


What the desired outcome?


The introduction to delegating a task should be a conversation about the desired outcome. Notice I said conversation.


If you include the team member in the initial discussions of determining the desired result, they usually will have a better understanding of the desired goals, and by being part of the development process, they have taken ownership of the project.


Now that the desired outcome has been established take another quick moment to ask the team member if they have any ideas on how they will get the job done?


Shawn Blanc wrote in a recent article.


"Actual delegation happens when you assign a task to someone while also empowering them to make any decisions related to completing that task.

Put another way, you are delegating the outcome."


Let your team run with their ideas. Their success and failure will strengthen them as a leader.


Share your expectations:


I missed this part with Joe.


I asked Joe to get some tasks done, but nowhere did I share any expectations.


Some examples of expectations would include:

  • The time frame for completion?

  • A follow-up process?

  • What do if he got stuck?

  • When should they check-in?


If I had just had a quick rundown of some or all of the list above when I delegated the tasks to Joe, he definitely would have been prepared for our conversation, and he may not have felt disenchanted.


Celebrate their efforts.


If you did everything above, you could celebrate your team members efforts every time; even if they have not yet completed the task.


I believe everyone works hard and wants to succeed, therefore when you are having the follow-up conversations on your delegation, acknowledge the time they have invested in the project.


If they have not met the expectations,

  • Take the time to acknowledge the shortfall,

  • Ask why they have not gotten as far as the set expectations

  • Compliment them on what has been achieved

  • Go back to sharing your expectations and reset; and

  • Confirm understanding and agreement


If I had set Joe up to accomplish the tasks I had delegated to him successfully, I would have avoided the uncomfortable conversation for both him and for me.

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