Delegation 101


Delegation 101

At work, I get asked all the time how to delegate more effectively; I hope it’s because I do it well and not because they want me to self-examine….

I think I’ve come up with how to get into that discussion now. I start with the common questions we should ask about most things:

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why
  • How

And then we examined each to see if it mattered in the context of delegation.

Who is a key question – who is the right person to do the work and is this a growth opportunity or something they know how to do? The answer to this will determine how much trust you can have in their ability to deliver, and therefore how many checkpoints (if any) you need along the way, and how much detail you need in your description of the work to do, which is a great intro to…

What is also important – the person performing the work needs to know the goal of the work, and what success looks like. If you don’t know what success looks like, then you either need to reflect longer before delegating, or admit this up front and ask the person to quickly turn around something that can you both of you determine what success looks like (this looks like an iterative approach for you software geeks). It’s a good idea to use reflection heavily here to see if the person understands the goal and success criteria clearly.

When is also critical and often overlooked – the person needs to know when this work is required, and an opportunity to negotiate if this work might put other work they have to do at risk for delivery. When people delegate to me and don’t specify when, I typically respond with, “And I’ll get this done next month.” I typically get a due date right away with a response like that.

Where is often not important, so I won’t write about it more – when it is you’ll have to handle it by feel (or ask someone).

Why is also important, and it should be part of agreeing on the goal and what success looks like.

How is usually not important, unless this is a growth opportunity – in that case you might want to use coaching techniques and feedback to help the person achieve the goal, and have more frequent checkpoints.

These are the things I think are key to good delegation – please comment with anything you think I’ve missed.


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