Effective Steps of Delegation

Six steps you can take to improve your delegation skills.

"If you give me a lever and a place to stand, I can move the world."

Archimedes may have being talking about the power of the fulcrum in physics, but he pretty much nailed the importance of delegation for the successful manager.

Trying to get things done as a manager without using delegation is like trying to move a giant object without a lever - it may be possible, but it's incredibly inefficient, and you run the risk of looking like a crazy person.

Using effective delegation is the quickest way to get more out of less - to use a hackneyed phrase, delegating to your team really does make 2 + 2 = [some number more than 4]. Not delegating simply makes you the bottleneck for everything that you and your team are trying to achieve - nothing can move faster than your personal processing speed.

Here are six steps you can take to improve your delegation skills

1. Determine What you are Going to Delegate
The best way to decide what do delegate is to adopt the philosophy that you will "only do what only you can do" and then delegate the rest. Write down a list of all the tasks and activities you have for the next week or month. Which of these are tasks and activities that only you can do? Concentrate your time and effort on these tasks and delegate the rest.

This may be difficult at first. You may believe that you are "delegating away your job." The reality is that a good manager will delegate the peripheral "stuff" they have to do each week so that they can focus on those key activities that only they can do.

2. Set Clear Goals
When you delegate a task or activity you should ensure that you set out clearly your expectations of the outcome along with a desired completion date. Work with your direct report to set goals and milestones for the activity. Make sure they understand exactly what is expected of them and what the repercussions will be if these expectations aren't met.

3. Schedule a Check-in Time
After you have created your goals and milestones, agree to a time or series of times when your direct report will check in with you on the progress of the activity. This time will give you the opportunity to assess the progress and to provide coaching, if necessary, to realign the activity to the overall objectives. This will help create accountability around the activity.

4. Let Go
Identify the objectives & milestones of the task, schedule your check-in times and then let go.

Hovering over your direct report's shoulder, constantly checking on their progress is not delegation. It's micro-managing and it will lead to under-par performance from both your direct report and yourself. Remember those activities that only you can do? Well, go do them.

It's important that you give your direct report the space and time they need to complete the task without your over-bearing presence distracting them.

5. Conduct a Review
Once the task has been completed, take the time to review the process with your direct report. Use this time to talk about what went well and what you would do differently the next time.

This simple review process will allow you to become a better delegator and will allow your direct report to build in confidence and produce better results the next time.

6. Give Credit
It's important to give credit where credit is due. If your direct report does a good job, let them know in your review session but also let the rest of your team and your boss know. Giving credit will strengthen the relationship with your direct report and make them likely to respond even more positively to the delegation process in the future.

Les McKeown is a writer, speaker, consultant and President & CEO of Predictable Success(R), an organizational development consulting firm based in Marblehead, MA. He is the author of Retaining Top Employees, The Complete Guide to Mentoring and Coaching, The Complete Guide to Orientation & Re-Orientation. For more on employee retention, visit Les' Retention Secrets website.