To do it right, delegating should be done intentionally and thoughtfully. Randomly handing out assignments does not make for good results or happy staff members! Good delegation is at the heart of empowerment and requires giving away, not only work assignments, but also authority to make decisions. Poor delegation practice is at the core of micromanagement. Use these guidelines to develop an approach that produces great outcomes while motivating and developing staff skills.
Properly Frame the Assignment
Determine what outcomes you are expecting. There is a big difference between telling staff members to water the grass three times a week and asking them to keep the grass green. Delegate the goal. Determine what the work will look like when accomplished to the given standard. For staff new to the type of assignment, you might provide outstanding work samples; i.e. reports, process diagrams, protocol, project plans, to use as a guideline. Avoid, however, delegating too much of the “how to” which takes away the freedom for staff members to discover their own approach.
Choose the Best Person
The best person for a given assignment may not be the one most qualified. If top performers are consistently given key assignments, over time, they often become burned out and frustrated with the unequal distribution of the workload. When delegating, consider developmental assignments. Who needs to learn how to do a given kind of work to advance in the organization? Who seems under challenged and needs something new to do? While it may take more of your time to coach someone new to a task, the long-term benefit is worth the effort. You might also ask a seasoned person to coach the less experienced person, thereby, creating two developmental assignments.
Establish Appropriate Checkpoints
Create a schedule of checkpoints, dependent on how comfortable you and the staff person are with the assignment. For a person new to the task, you may want more frequent checkpoints to be assured that things are on track. For highly experienced staff persons, you may want to put the ball in their court suggesting contact with you only when they feel they need it.
Use the checkpoints to review the work and give solid feedback. Redirect what’s not quite right and praise work that is headed in the desired direction. Make sure you give away authority, along with responsibility. If you create too many checkpoints, causing staff members to continually check with you before making decisions, you have essentially tied their hands.
Give Credit Where Due
Avoid taking credit for the work of others. Once the assignment is complete and others positively recognize their efforts, make sure you name the person who actually got it done. If you hear criticism, shoulder the blame and ask the staff person to make corrections. Avoid redoing the work yourself. Then, give credit for the rework.
Delegation is at the heart of good management. Develop your staff members’ skills through an approach that is motivating, demonstrating that you are attentive to the skills and needs of each person you lead.
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