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Effective Delegation

When I think of an effective delegation process, I imagine the participants in a relay race where the baton is passed from one runner to another. When the race goes well, it’s a sight to behold. But when runners mishandle or drop the baton, they usually lose the race. When it comes to delegating tasks successfully, many of the same principles apply. Let’s take a look at some of the generally accepted components in an effective delegation process.

Identify The Players
A good manager should have a strong sense of individual work loads and the strengths of the people on the team. An important first step is to determine the right person (or persons) to take on the assignment. Not only do you want to consider who has the time and who has the capability, but delegating certain duties can also be a way to assess skill levels or reward behavior. Sharing “managerial type” functions, for instance, with people who don’t typically perform them can be a way to acknowledge one’s contributions to the team or reward someone for a job well done. However, guard against delegating a task to a worker when you know the job is beyond their skill set. It’s one thing to challenge people to reach new levels of performance. It’s another thing entirely to set someone up to fail.

Define The Task
Clear instructions & expectations are vital if the delegation process is to succeed. Carefully articulate what the goal is and be certain to establish a reasonable deadline. Outline (preferably in writing) who is responsible and what are the specific action steps required. If part of the task to be delegated involves developing a work plan, give as many suggestions as may be appropriate based on the person’s experience and ability.

What Resources Are Required?
Will the person taking on the task require additional training? Do they have the tools necessary for success? Will special funds be available? These are all important issues to be taken in to consideration as you plan to delegate. Be sure to discuss and agree on what will be required to get the job done correctly.

A real challenge for many managers is to distinguish between a reasonable amount of follow-up and micro managing. Ideally, when you give the assignment, this is a good time to talk about how you plan to monitor progress. As the manager, it is part of your responsibility to check how things are going. You should come to some agreement on the follow-up process (frequency & format), remembering what we tell people when we manage too closely. Finally, be sure to encourage open communication. Unless you’re talking about birthday parties, no one likes surprises. Make it clear that you want to be informed of critical developments- even if they are of a negative nature. Effective delegation is a fundamental driver of personal development and organizational growth. And when it is done well, everyone wins.

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