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Delegate, Do it or Delete it

I have been told many times that I don’t delegate enough. Deep down, I knew that was true. I would always get the difficult projects with tight timelines and teams that were already struggling for time. I know that I am no different than the other managers out there with similar dilemmas.

“Only 9% of managers can actually rely on colleagues in other functions and units all the time” (Donald Sull, 2015). How do the managers deal with this low probability of success? How do you deal with these false promises? Personally, I end up doing it (even as a backup) because I don’t want to fail and I know it is unlikely the person that made the promise will not follow through. Many of us find the alternate plan, which typically creates additional manual work, dysfunctional habits, etc. and we fail to meet our customer needs. Later, other units or functions know that they cannot rely on the team(s) and hold back future participation in the future.

I recently participated in several meetings where I listened to the various action items which have lingered for months, even years! People in management had a perception that it was done just because it had been so long since the first few discussions. This failure happens in every business, organization, school, etc. We can’t trust or rely on each other to get something done. So if we don’t personally do it, it never gets done. What do we change?

Managers constantly face the delegate vs. do it myself decision. Some managers are “Teflon” and they roll it right down without fear. Others take it all on themselves. How can we change the others around us so we can delegate or trust it will get done? Like I have stated in another blog -- that is for YOU to do. More time in the mirror to figure out how you can make this happen.

Consider some areas to consider before delegating:

Time: Do you have the time? Balance between training another person to do it (with full clarity and support) and doing it yourself. Note, you cannot just ‘show’ a person what to do and expect them to remember how to do it. Really take the time to share your expectations, provide detailed instructions and make sure they understand the timing you expect. Many times people fail because they didn’t have the same urgency as you or they were not privy to all of the instructions. Take the time and do it right.

Repetition: Consider if this will be a repetitive task. Maybe you do it if it is only one time, however, if this is a weekly or monthly task, you need to properly train somebody for the future tasks.

Importance: Determine how important the project or task is to your team or company. Compare the risks and rewards. Where possible, delegate the tasks that should be easier to follow and less critical so you can spend your time doing what makes

Once you determine if you should delegate or not, consider the following for successful project management and ensuring the team meets the targets (regardless if they report directly to you):

Project Deliverables & Goals: Discuss the importance of the project and ensure a common understanding of what is in it for them and the desired outcome of their task/project. I found it best to tie all of the project team member’s goals together so they all were forced to make the project successful. Make sure they understand what is at stake.

Milestones: Pre-define the stops you want the team to report back their success and communicate any challenges or barriers. At the start, it may be frequent until everyone is comfortable and trust the next milestones will be met on time. Managers do not need to be involved in every step but do need to communicate when they want the information (what stages). There is nothing more frustrating to a project manager than when they send an update and hear nothing back or get no feedback in a meeting.

Be the coach: Don’t take over, only guide your team member. Stay positive and constructive in your feedback. It is important to understand their skill and understanding of the project and apply the appropriate amount of coaching. When your team member is a pro, let them go. When they are new, give the instructions and direction.

Delegation is not easy and something that nobody can ever master. I have learned over the years that doing everything myself takes time from my family and causes unnecessary stress. Since we can’t do everything (barrier = time and expertise), we have to delegate. It is up to you to decide what to take on and what to delegate to others (and also what to delete in consideration of the fact that it is of low importance). Remember that delegating provides career growth for the employee and helps them feel part of the big picture. Your entire team (direct and indirect) will successfully reap the benefits of your choice to delegate or not. Go forward and empower those around you!

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