Learning to Delegate

Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results. 

George S. Patto

So it has been a while since my last post. I was working harder than ever at my day job toward the end of 2016 with very little time to spare for the “nice-to-haves” both at work and home. And while I was disappointed that I did not stay on track with my posts, I really needed to give myself a break somewhere, so the blog was it.

That said, it is a new year, and I am back at it!

Two things usually come to mind as a new year begins. First, I like to reflect on what has occurred the prior year. In my year-end post of 2015, I list a bunch of questions you can ask yourself about your goals, your relationships, what you have learned, what you did to accelerate your career, and whether you spent enough time on yourself throughout the year.

Second, after reflecting, I like to think about the year to come. Where can I better myself? How can I help others succeed? And how can I make sure this next year is better than the last?

Delegation is a skill that can check a few of those boxes for me. It is a development area of mine half because I am usually an individual contributor with minimal opportunity to delegate – I would have to prioritize instead – and half because I am a perfectionist! But now I have a direct report who is helping me manage some key projects, and given everything that I have on my plate, I need to learn to delegate more so that the craziness that occurred at the end of 2016 does not happen again.

Not only will I benefit from delegating, but the person to whom I delegate these tasks will also benefit. He will have more responsibilities, be accountable for a larger scope of work, have more visibility with the larger team as well as leadership, and will get exposure to things he may not have had otherwise. And all of those things are great for his career development. It’s a win-win!

So what are the tricks to delegating like a pro? Well, I still need to figure them out. But off the top of my head, here is what I think is likely important.

  • Select the right person for the task – Choose your delegate based on who has the required knowledge or skills to get the work done.
  • Set expectations – This includes providing an overview of what is expected, by when, in what format, and with what inputs.
  • Confirm understanding – Answer any questions he has about the task to confirm he understand what is expected. 
  • Trust the process – In other words, do not micro-manage! If you delegate something, you need to learn to let it go and trust that he will get you what you need when you need it (assuming you followed the above steps). 
  • Give feedback – As your delegate checks in with you, provide him with feedback along the way so he knows whether or not he is meeting expectations.
  • Say “thank you!” – A little appreciation goes a long way in most situations, and I imagine it is no different when it comes to delegating.

I am excited at the opportunity to not only delegate some of my responsibilities, but also to guide someone as he develops and stretches his capabilities in new and different ways. And when he and I work as a team, the possibilities will be greater than if it were just me behind the wheel.

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