Leadership skills – Delegating part 2 – Make Delegating work in practice

‘No matter what skill you build if you don’t start practicing you will soon lose the skill.’

‘Practice makes an expert.’

Have you heard these sentences? I bet you have. They are like a learning mantra for the last several decades. Companies developed strategies and systems incorporating the essence of these statements. People have built PDP’s including differentiated stages, experts give advice and build systems, trainers train for skills. And all that to ensure a more efficient work process and deliver better results. One of the admired skills to build if you are on a leadership role is considered the delegation skill. Sounds simple, but indeed this skill is one of the hardest to build. It requires the leader to be emotionally grown, easy building trust person ready to share freedom and takes responsibility for the process or the task delegated.

I don’t consider myself as a leading expert in the area, but in my experience, I had the opportunity to work on delegating tasks to other team members. From the experience, gained with this process, I have structured 6 working stages of the delegation, to help me plan for successfully executing this process. 

The process you will see below allows every leader to clearly define requirements at each stage and optimize personal productivity. To avoid confusion in the process the leader should communicate clearly not only with the person, chosen for the delegating, but also with everyone who takes place in the process and ensures that results are achieved. 

Here are the 6 stages as I have seen them in my experience:

1. Find the right person

As a leader, you should have a clear picture of the team you lead. It is your responsibility to collect information on the knowledge, skills, and attitude of your team members. Selecting the right person for the task means to evaluate both – team members and task – and match the task with the person who fits on skills, knowledge to do it and a positive attitude. If you, as a leader, miss that analysis you will make more damage than good in the process of task execution and completion.

The three factors (Knowledge, Skills, and Attitude) form a set of Behavior and competencies that will help the chosen person to finish the task successfully. The team member you chose must understand and feel that the task you assign correspondents with their role description and level of authority. Together with that you, as a leader must ensure that when providing a challenging opportunity to improve, you must also have the authority to ensure that the people or person involved will have the chance to use skills and initiative to complete the task.

If these conditions are not met, then it is likely that the team member will reject the opportunity to work on the task.

2. Communicate clear goal

It is the person delegating the task responsibility to provide enough information, that can help to understand and form expectations. Another element that is crucial is the level of importance of the task communicated. When explaining the task, the leader must emphasize what is the final goal and how will success be measured. As part of the briefing process there should be several checks on the level of understanding from the person performing the task or simply said – the leader must check if the person understands what is expected.

Productivity tip: A technique that can help with this step is to stimulate the process of asking questions and then reframe what was said in a way that makes the person who will do the task feel like an owner to this task. That will help boost confidence in the completion process.

3. Delegate to a champion, not a team

In other words, this means to delegate the task to a single person from the team. Splitting tasks to different team members can easily lead to a confusing situation.  Doing that means to explain to all involved the meaning and purpose of the task and ensure that they all have built the same level of understanding and commitment to the task. Like many people, you involve in the process as smaller the personal responsibility rate will become.

Focus on delegating to one person brings accountability on a higher level.  If the person you have delegated to, decides to further delegate parts of the whole task to another member of the team or someone else let them decide how to do it, but still you need to ensure full accountability from the one you have delegated to.

4. Set realistic deadline (if appropriate)

There is nothing worse than a task without a deadline. If you have one like this then you have a ticking bomb ready to explode at each moment and bring disturbance into the system.  I know that you cannot ensure realistic deadlines for all the tasks you get from above, but if you get a task with a non-realistic deadline then you should negotiate the timeframe or the content of the result you are expected to deliver. And then you should go with these parameters to the person you are going to delegate to. 

Briefing someone about a task that is delegated means to not forget setting a clear deadline and explain the reason for it. If you set extremely challenging deadlines you will usually reverse the effect of delegating. Starting to doubt if they can finish the task leads delegates with a sense of losing motivation even to try. 

Another thing to consider, when setting a deadline is the path the person has to walk to complete the task.  Before setting a deadline to explore options for getting the work done and analyze all of them to be sure that the deadline you set is realistic, acceptable and motivating for the person you are delegating to. 

5. Set periodic reviews

A mistake I have often seen and experienced tens of times in my career path is to not be informed about the progress of the task.  To ensure successful competition of the task you have delegated you must identify key points in the process of completion that will mean that the person doing the task progresses. That means to set smaller goals, brief about milestones or key points, negotiate on the form of feedback on progress.  That will give you the security that the task is on track and will give you the flexibility in terms of time to react if something goes out of control.

Conducting a short debrief of the task can also play a positive role in deciding on what went well, what needed improvement and together with that give some real recognition on the progress that is made with the task completion.

6. Give credit and recognition

A development area I often see in the process is that the leader who delegates tasks almost never thinks about how the performance on the task will be recognized.  It is important to think in advance how will you thank and reward the person after the task successful completion. When the task is in the history you must focus on giving full credit to the person completed it. This raises personal recognition for achievement at the team and company level. 

And if the task or the project you have delegated is not successful you, as an authority who has delegated must take full responsibility. Debrief what happened and why was the team member not capable to complete the task or the project you have delegated.

IN CONCLUSION:

Every process should have its basics, but also his steps for progress. Having a process without steps for improvement can only lead to moving in a circle, without achieving any meaningful results. That is why every leader focused on making a process like delegation work in practice focus on building own set of activities based on the categories above.

Want to develop further your skills for delegation?….

Check soon the next article: Leadership skills – Delegating part 3 – How to support delegation for success

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