Delegation can be a tricky business. You don't want to simply "dump" distasteful work on someone else -- but you do need to make sure every job gets done, and some don’t need to be done by you. And delegating can become a particularly sensitive issue when it is lateral -- asking a colleague, freelance consultant, family member, or friend for help. But by approaching delegation in the right way -- with a formalized agreement about your goals and how the project should proceed -- you can make the experience productive for both parties.
1. Consider Individual Strengths and Weaknesses
When delegating a job to an individual, keep in mind the person's talents, areas of specialization, and schedule. Make sure you are delegating to someone who can successfully complete the task at hand. Handing a job off to someone who is missing a key ingredient -- time, skills, resources, experience, or willingness -- will only frustrate you both.
2. Match Challenge to Ability Level
The quickest way to turn someone off to a delegated job is to give that person an assignment that is substantially below his or her skill level. Delegate a project to the most junior person capable of successfully completing the job.
3. Use Delegation As a Developmental Tool
Delegate interesting projects in addition to drudgery. You will wear out your team members if you only give them the "dregs." Use delegation to help others grow and expand their skills, as well as to get menial chores done. If you challenge your delegates today, you'll be able to give them more difficult assignments in the future (without worrying that they will be overburdened!).
4. Keep a Delegation Log
There's nothing more frustrating than handing a job over to someone and forgetting that you delegated it, or WHEN you delegated it, or when it was DUE BACK to you. Keep track of what projects you give to whom. You don't want to wake up at 3 a.m. thinking, "Oh no -- did I ask my web master to update my newsletter yet?" We all suffer from absentmindedness at times, so write it down!
5. Specify a Target Date or Deadline
Don't ever hand off a job with the instructions, "I need this back when you finish." Give a firm deadline along with the assignment. Although the ultimate responsibility for completion of the job lies with you, you don't want to waste time chasing after the appointed surrogate saying, "When will you be done?"
6. Break the Task Into Chunks
Since the ultimate responsibility for completing a delegated project does lie with you, it's not the best policy to wait until two days before the deadline to see what kind of progress your assistant is making. Set milestones or interim deadlines for completing sections of the project. When you break a job up into smaller "bite-sized" pieces, it's much easier to handle. Also, you have set up a series of natural follow-up points throughout the project. Instead of showing up the day of the final deadline, you can check in with your team member at each interim deadline for a status report.
7. Require Progress Reports
You should never have to guess how far along a project has progressed. Ask your people to REPORT their progress at regular intervals. These milestones are often the perfect time for a meeting or written report. They allow you to discuss any problems the person has run into, any additional resources he/she might need, and make any adjustments to your project schedule.
8. Agree on End Results
Similarly, you shouldn't have to guess what kind of a finished product your assistant will hand you when the final deadline comes around. Communicate what end result you expect before you delegate the job. Give your helpers enough to go on so they don't have to keep coming back and asking you for more information every step of the way. The whole point behind delegation is to save you time. And that doesn't happen if you are always on the phone or in meetings clarifying your intent.
9. Avoid Micromanaging
Once your assistant has a firm grasp of the expected end result, allow the individual enough freedom to decide HOW to accomplish the job. Delegation is not about micromanaging -- it's about letting go of a job you didn't need to do in the first place.
10. Be Generous With Recognition
Give credit where credit is due! No one likes to work hard on a job for someone else and receive none of the glory. And your team will work harder for you in the long run if you give them ample praise.
About the Author
Ramona Creel is a professional organizer, NAPO Golden Circle member and the original founder of OnlineOrganizing. A former social worker, she has always enjoyed helping people find the resources and solutions they need to improve their lives. As both a virtual and traveling organizer, Ramona can create a customized organizing plan for your home or office, put on a workshop, or educate you through one of her popular teleseminars. As a simplicity coach, she offers a proven program for making every area of life a little bit easier. Visit her website at www.RamonaCreel.com.