Recently as I was working with one of my senior executive coaching clients, she and I got talking about what effective delegation looks like and how often she witnessed it. For homework I asked her to be on the lookout for examples of effective delegation so we could better understand it. After a month of her meetings and observations she was unable to come up with one example, which made me wonder if effective delegation might be an endangered competency of leadership.
In my 16-plus years of coaching, the issue of effective delegation continues to show up as a developmental challenge for many of my coaching clients. It appears often as a root cause for poor execution of project tasks, and on a larger level, poor execution on an organization’s mission. It is often hidden underneath presenting issues of micromanagement, ineffective communication, alignment of work toward achieving business goals and accountability.
To me there are a few simple principles that, when executed well, lead to effective delegation:
- The What: Clearly explain the task at hand and what outcome is expected/desired.
- Picture of Success: State what success might look like – what will be different once the task is completed and why this is important.
- Hand-offs: Clarify if any subsequent work by others is dependent on timely completion of the project and delineate any handoff details.
- Connections: Connect the dots to a larger organizational framework such as vision, strategic goals or overarching strategic plan.
- Timeline: State the completion date required, and if there are conflicting deadlines or other factors that must be considered. Be willing to negotiate.
- Resources: Clarify what resources and support is needed from you, the leader, and the organization to ensure success.
- Clarifying Understanding: Ask for understanding of the assignment and commitment by the person being tasked to ensure the project is a success. If appropriate, ask for ideas on how the project might be started and convey your trust and confidence in the person who is accountable for results.
- Check in on Progress: Decide on a subsequent meeting to check on progress, if needed. Ensure the person knows to come back to you at the earliest time when they feel they may not meet the deadline and not wait for the last moment.
- Recognition: Look for opportunities to praise and reward people for their contributions. Positive, constructive feedback is essential to building employee confidence and risk-taking ability.
- Ongoing Support: Continue to ask, “What more can I do to support you?”
In the fast pace of today’s work environment, not taking the time to effectively delegate can result in unintended consequences and poor execution of vital work. What other principles do you feel are important for effective delegation? How often do you see or experience effective delegation and what can be done to produce more of it so it doesn’t become an endangered competency of leadership?