Why don’t we use delegation more? The reasons I often hear are:
- “I tried it, and it didn’t work…”
- “It takes longer to delegate than to just do it myself…”
- “They just don’t listen so they do it the wrong way…”
- “If I want something doing, I’m better off doing it myself…”
…and so on. The good news is that delegation is quite straightforward and effective if you understand that it’s all about a process and developing trust. Yes, it takes time, but the time invested will pay you back many times over and you’ll develop a great team too.
Stage 1: Do this task, this way, and show me before you issue it
Stage 2: Here’s the task, tell me your recommendation, do it, show me afterwards
Stage 3: Here’s the objective, work out the best way to do it, tell me when it’s done
Stage 4: When you see an issue, deal with it as you think best, report routinely
The four Delegation stages in detail
At stage 1 you have no confidence that the person you’re going to delegate to understands the task or knows how you’d want it done, so you need to be very prescriptive. You explain the task and say how it should be done, and ask to see the finished result before it’s implemented. If the result at the end of a stage 1 delegation is how you want it, and you’re confident they can do it again, you’re ready to move to stage 2. But until then you’re going to continue being very prescriptive and leaving very little room for error, and you’ll catch any errors before they really matter.
At Stage 2 you’re checking that they will go and do the task the way you want it done. “The task is this… what are the steps you would go through to complete this task?”. If they confidently get it right, they’ve learnt, so demonstrate some trust and let them go and do it and show you after it’s completed. And say that if they feel unsure, come and ask for guidance. But if they keep coming back, tell them you really want them to achieve this without checking and get them to have a go. It’s important to build their confidence.
At stage 3 you hand over an objective (the outcome you want, which might entail several smaller tasks) and ask them to work out how best to achieve it and tell you when it’s done. Again, encourage them initially to seek further guidance if they feel unsure of what you’d want. When they consistently do things the way you want several times, tell them clearly that you’re confident you’re doing things the way you want (well done!) and they’re ready for the final stage.
Stage 4 is where you stand back and watch things happen, stepping in only if the situation changes, or if you see problems occurring. Only step back to stage 3 if you really need to. If you follow the process, you WILL reach stage 4 with most people. Never take back a task once delegated! Unless, that is, you want to forever do all the work for the staff you’re paying! Yes, mistakes will sometimes happen! When they do, it’s probably because you failed to describe the task sufficiently well, or failed to mention something about how you like it done. Or maybe you tried to jump past one or more steps – don’t.
Delegation is the key to your business running efficiently. Start working toward Stage 4 today!