Delegate … Don’t Dump!

Performance ManagementThere is a difference between delegating and dumping. There is also a difference in delegating and effective delegation. Let’s just discuss five ways to be more effective. These are subtle differences that can make your responsibility and delegation much more effective. I also believe that these suggestions apply regardless of any other management systems you use.

Clarity – Whether you are setting a task for yourself or delegating one to someone else, it is best to document each task as specifically as possible, so it is patently clear to you and everyone else in your team exactly what needs to be done, by whom, and by when. Imagine that the person accountable for each task receives a text message on their mobile device, without having any context of the bigger Goal or Project it is associated with. They would not be able to determine exactly what they needed to do or by when. Be sure that you make your instructions crystal clear.

Intent – Make the task clear and brief when assigned. Consider preparing a more expository instruction set for the associate to follow. The key point is not to create vague, open-ended assignments like “Work on the new website” or “Make some customer calls” ¬neither of which are helpful because they are too open to interpretation. A high performance culture of accountability requires clarity and specific actions that must be completed.

Components – “Provide a series of training sessions on the new prospecting process.” It is more effective to create a separate task for each training session and be specific about what each training session entails. Let the task owner check each task off as it gets done so they can track their progress, and feel a sense of fulfillment each time they complete a step.

Promises – The task owner should only make promises that they fully intend to keep, and are happy to be held firmly accountable for based on the best knowledge they have available at the time. This especially applies to setting due dates. The due date should not be a wish: “I hope to get it done by Wednesday.” The due date should be a promise: “I will complete this by Wednesday.”

As a team leader, absolutely need to discuss and get agreement from the task owner about what is a reasonable and achievable due date. Do not just delegate tasks and assign due dates without consultation with the owner. In addition, any support or resource requirements need to be agreed upon at the time of delegation.

After both parties have agreed the due date, if a task subsequently becomes overdue, the task owner has, in essence, not kept their promise to team leader or the team. This is an accountability issue that needs to be raised and resolved at your next meeting.

Close the Loop – If you are the team leader, you must follow-up to make sure tasks are completed on time by your team. This is not micro-managing. You let the task owner use their initiative to figure out how best to achieve their targets, but you must “close the loop” to ensure the work actually got done.

If there is a valid reason for the task being overdue, documented the reason in advance and advise the team of the reason for the delay and the new completion date. Be sure to praise and acknowledge team members for getting their tasks done. Alternatively, you must maintain performance standards or “not getting things done” will become the norm for your team. You must avoid allowing a culture of mediocrity to develop.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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