Success Begins with Delegation

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Success begins with delegation.  At the core of their being successful people do not really believe that they can do everything by themselves.  Those who do may manage businesses, organizations, or teams...but they are micromanagers who create a ceiling for themselves which they will never be able to rise beyond.

Successful people also know how delegation works.  They never assume that the person to whom they are delegating a task or project just simply knows how to do it and has the ability to get it done.  Those who lead like that may manage businesses, organizations, or teams...but they are usually irritating leaders who expect others to be mind-readers while tasks and projects rarely get completed with excellence, if they ever get completed at all.  Then they become blameshifters as they relocate the problem from themselves to their team members or employees.

One of the most important keys to success in any area you lead is to delegate...and to do it right.  Over the years I’ve learned the art of delegation and have come to summarize it succinctly in three gears, all of which are required to make the delegated task or project come to completion and fruition.  Make no mistake.  Delegation is an art, simply because each person to whom you delegate is different.  However, when you make your attention the heart and soul and life of the person to whom you’re delegating, the following three gears to delegation will run smoothly with the oil of servant-leadership.

1.  Instruct

The first gear of good delegation is instruction.  Everything that needs delegating usually needs explaining...unless they’ve done the task or project before.  And even then, more instruction is probably needed to help them do it better the next time.  When instructing someone I’ve found it helpful to use the following thinking process.

     Offer the plan and be specific:  “Here’s what needs to happen in order to get this done.
     Ask for input and be specific:  “Do you see anything I’m missing when it comes to getting this done?
     Make a decision and be specific:  “What we’re going to do then is….
     Affirm buy-in by reviewing specifics:  “So at this point are you clear on what you need to do?

If you explain well what you’re delegating, you’ve laid a solid foundation for the expectation and outcome.  If you fail here, it will most often show when what you’ve delegated is complete, if it was completed at all.  The quality of completion is directly connected to the quality of your ability to plainly instruct.  Therefore, if and when things don’t turn out quite like you hoped, be open to the fact that your instructions need more explaining next time around.

2.  Illustrate

The average person around the world is a visible and not an auditory learner.  That may surprise us first-world, 21st century, technologically advanced, Westernized citizens.  This fact is never more likely to show up than when a person you’ve delegated something to is strangely unable to complete it.  You may have done a great job explaining it.  But if you haven’t shown them how to do it, then they have no visible standard by which to compare their work.  More often than not this will leave them frustrated and you irritated, and most likely blaming them for not being a good listener or a good team member.  Good illustration skills should follow this helpful thinking process.

     Show the plan, and be specific:  “Let me start the project or task for you by showing you what I think is a great way to approach and accomplish this task.”
     Watch for feedback, and pay attention to it: “I notice some hesitation here or slight confusion.  Show me what you need me to review again.”  Or “I notice you seem to be pretty confident about this.  Why don’t you review with me what I just showed you to make sure we’re both on the same page.”
     Affirm buy-in and send them on their way: “Let’s get you started and I’ll be available by such-and-such if you have any more questions.”

3.  Inspect

The final gear to ensuring that solid delegation has been exercised is remembering the old adage, “inspect what you expect.”  Yet this gear is one of the most neglected.  We normally get so busy, that we just assume the person to whom a task was delegated somehow got it done...and that it was done right.  Those who attempt to manage a business, organization, or team this way often experience the ripple effects of this neglect down the road in the form of organizational potholes that hinder productivity and effectiveness.  Inspecting the work of your delegated task involves the following thought process, which lays the foundation in the team member’s mind that you have certain expectations...and that you’ll be inspecting them at some point. 

     Communicate when it needs to get done and be specific: “Here’s when this needs to be completed.” Put it on your calendars right then and there:
     Ask for their input on the due date and be specific: “Any issues you foresee in getting this completed on time?
     Decide a due date and put it on your calendars then and there:  “So we’re agreeing that this will be completed by 0/0/00 (@ 0:00 am/pm [if necessary]).
     Communicate a follow up date/time to ensure it has been done:  “I’ll follow up with you on 0/0/00 at 0:00 am/pm to hear how it went.
     Present contact information should they have more questions:  “Here’s my contact information if you should have any more questions.
     Affirm buy-in on the expectations one final time:  “To review then, you’re going to get this completed by 0/0/00 @ 0:00 am/pm, and I’m gonna follow up with you on 0/0/00 @ 0:00 am/pm to follow up?

If delegation is the most crucial element in any business, organization or team, are you willing to take the time required to delegate thoroughly and properly?  Is the value or goal you have in mind worth the time and effort to see it through to the end?  If not, then you probably need to do it yourself.  If so, then it’s time to delegate...and watch your efforts blossom into a fruitfulness you’ve probably only dreamed of before!

About the Author: Rob is a follower of Jesus at Jubilee Church.  From there he pursues Jesus' mission at Revive Consignment as the Business & Operations Development Director, as well as at Jubilee Church of Atlanta, in Woodstock, GA. From there he envisions and pursues missional-shaped business for the kingdom. He and his wife Sherri have been married for 20 years and together have three sons and a daughter. Rob believes the mission of the gospel is summed up in four simple phrases: know God, obey Jesus, make disciples, and plant churches. This is the pursuit of his life, as well as the point of his blog.

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