The Self-Licking Ice-Cream Cone of Delegation
Many of the clients I work with, even at the executive level, aren’t very good at delegating. This surprises me, because the alternative to delegating work to those reasonably capable of doing it is to do it all yourself. This is one strategy I suppose, but probably not a good one.
4 Reasons to Delegate
There are at least four solid reasons to delegate:
1. Delegation Saves Money
If work can be done by somebody who gets paid less than you, even if it’s not being done the same way you’d do it, then it’s a win for the company that drops straight to the bottom line. Also, you get to focus on higher value work that is probably a better use of your salary.
2. Delegation Saves Frustration
While somebody else is doing the work you don’t enjoy or don’t do well, you can be working on something else you do better. This is not “laziness”. It’s effectiveness.
3. Delegation Saves Time
The biggest roadblock for leaders we work with is “not having enough time.” There never seems to be enough of it. So while it may take longer to train somebody to do a task than it would to do it yourself the first few times, it has a large return on investment in the long run.
4. Delegation Develops Leaders
This is another challenge for business execution: finding the right talent to execute. Delegation develops your leadership muscles, your staff’s abilities, and teaches you who is ready to be promoted. It also makes you more promotable since you’ve now trained your replacement.
4 Ways to Delegate
There are four kinds of delegation. Choosing how to delegate will tell you what the appropriate follow-up is.
1. Fire and Forget
You want the person to take action independently. No need to report back. Some tasks don’t need a lot of detail, explanation, or even tracking. You trust the person assigned the task, or they’ve done the task successfully in the past. They can to act independently and don’t need to report back the results or even that the work was completed.
2. Report on Completion
You want the person to take action independently, and report back to you when the task is done. Either you want to ensure the task is done, or the task requires coordination with others. Be prepared to follow-up if and when the deadline passes. If they can’t or won’t do what they said they were going to do, that’s on them. If you don’t hold them accountable for completion, that’s on you.
3. Get Approval
We want the person to do the research, explore the options, and recommend an action – but to wait for your approval before taking any action. They may either then be tasked with that action or not. At this level we really start to see some of the “development” benefits of delegating. If you believe the person you have in mind for this task can do 70% of the work, then go ahead and use them. They’ll need mentoring, coaching, and support, but that will be part of your development work as a leader
4. Make Recommendations
You want the person to review the options and recommend courses of action. This is appropriate for an especially complicated, challenging, or risky task. It’s also a huge opportunity to get insight into, and shape the thinking of the person being delegated to. At this level you are explicitly reserving the right to decide which option, if any, to choose. You may also decide to focus on researching and analyzing more thoroughly the most promising options after the initial report, or even reject all offered options and direct more research as appropriate.
2 Questions to Ensure Execution
There are two questions we need to ask to ensure the execution of the work.
1. “When can you get this done by?”
Be prepared to hear an answer you don’t like and negotiate from there. We need to figure out what other work priorities need to be managed, and if the work can be done by time we need it. Most importantly we need a genuine commitment. One that comes from actually asking, followed by the art of generous listening to the answer. If they set the deadline, then it’s their commitment. Simple but powerful.
2. “How would you like me to hold you accountable if you can’t meet your deadline?”
Now there’s a commitment from you to follow up. Also simple, also powerful.
Now go turbo-charge your business execution and delegate that work you hate doing to somebody who loves doing it!
Not lazy, smart!