Over the years, I have worked with some incredible leaders who had a strong work ethic and accomplished many things. The best among them were able to multiply their effectiveness through quality delegation skills.
From viewing their performance and experimenting with those lessons I learned myself, I quickly came to understand that this was NOT simply dumping unpleasant tasks on others. Instead, this was finding people with the correct strengths and resources, and then launching them to accomplish the mission.
Their mission, tied in with the bigger vision, can make the whole team or organization highly successful.
Additionally, success hinges on applying these five delegation skills.
1. Align it with your vision.
It is rare that a delegated task sits alone. Each small task is a step towards a larger vision. Sweeping the floor or cleaning the bathroom does not sit alone in any organization. But each task needs to be shown how it fits in the big picture. A company would want to present itself as a professional and healthy organization. A clean bathroom may fit into that vision. Share that with your custodial staff.
For example: Gospel Rescue Mission wants to accomplish that sort of task, but we also want to let the men and women that we serve know the benefits of their work. So we invited them to clean up around our facility that really is their home. We told them that when we clean up, we are showing respect and gratitude to donors as well as others who sacrifice a part of themselves for us. We included this task for staff to teach them a bit about servant leadership, too.
The vision that is shared is totally dependent on WHO is being tasked. Yet it all must be expressed as part of a bigger vision. Ask yourself, “How does this thread fit into the tapestry of the entire carpet?” To improve your delegation skills, you must first be clear on this.
2. Analysis of the task.
Once you know how each task fits into the big picture, we must begin to analyze the job at hand. Who might best accomplish this mission? What will it cost us if that person does this task?
While my women’s director might be able to accomplish the clean bathroom mission better than anyone, is she really the best choice? Would it better serve the organization to employ someone else? You will also discover who will most benefit from the task in learning, experience, or image. Once you figure out WHO you are going to delegate the task to, it is important to continue the analysis to include any training that might be involved and what supplies might be needed.
It is a major leadership failure to delegate a task and NOT provide the resources to make it happen. Ask yourself, “What does this mission really need if it is to be successful?”
3. Communicate clearly.
From my experience, this is the one of the delegation skills that is often missing from many leaders. As they already know HOW to pull off the task, they assume that everyone will know how to do it, too.
Just recently, I was playing the role of race director for a fundraiser. I delegated the task of setting up and operating the water stations along the run route. I believe that I have selected the right person, did the analysis, and ensured that all supplies and logistical issues were in play. But I failed to communicate how the tables should be laid out. In most runs, there are cups filled with water sitting on the table that runners can pick up, drink, and then throw aside.
But the person who had the task did NOT know that. They took the water and cups out, but figured runners would simply stop and fill up as needed. I had imagined that he had seen a water station before and knew how it worked.
When communicating the task, ensure that you create a clear picture for how it should be done. For instance: when delegating a task to clean the bathroom, do not assume that everyone has the same standard of what ‘clean’ looks like. You will be amazed at the variety of possibilities they can think of. Some will over clean – while others will under clean.
Communicate what success looks like and make sure that you use any tools you have to clarify that vision. Ask yourself, “What does success on this mission look like? Have I communicated that?”
4. Don’t forget to follow-up.
Delegation skills won’t be complete without follow-ups.
You can only expect to see results in what you inspect. If progress is too slow or small – or if you never took the time to follow-up at all – then you might never see the results that you’ve been dreaming of. If the task is not important enough to be checked on, why delegate it at all?
When you communicate the vision, set a timeline and then follow it. Some jobs might need surprise inspections – but that is actually fairly rare, especially if you have selected the right person for the task.
Successful leaders usually gain a reputation for high standards because they often monitor progress. Be realistic but firm. When you follow-up, do not come looking to stump the chump. Rather, come in as a teacher or coach looking to discover what might have been missing in training or was not communicated.
After the inspection, you might need to schedule further follow-up meetings. Ask yourself, “When will I follow-up on this mission?”
5. Review results.
All of life is filled with learning opportunities. Delegation is a learned skill – and the best learning often takes place when mistakes have been made and failure has been acknowledged.
I hate failure and I despise losing. That is why anytime that I fall short, I sit down with others to discover what went right and what went wrong. I demand of myself complete honesty and integrity. I look at the results. Did this task accomplish what I thought it would? Was this the right person to delegate the task to? How could it have been done better? Did the person I gave the task to succeed? If not, why so?
I hold this to be among the most important skills any leader can develop. After the race, I met with participants and staff alike. We discussed all of the tasks that were involved in the event and came to some very interesting conclusions.
Additionally, while the activity was still fresh in our minds, we came up with a boatload of ideas on how to do it better next year. Others shared with me where I could have delegated more and where I should have taken the reigns myself. There is power in the after action review. Ask yourself, “How could this have gone better?”
Learn to develop your delegation skills and you will multiply your effectiveness. A master delegator is on track to live life as a legend. Take time this month to develop this critical leadership skill.