As you move up the ladder in your career, you naturally acquire more responsibilities. At some point you will reach a level where we can no longer personally accomplish all of the programs, projects and tasks you are responsible for. If you continue to try to go it alone, productivity and quality of work begins to suffer. Eventually, you will find yourself overwhelmed and stressed. This is where effective delegation comes in. In fact delegation should be occurring much earlier than we think it should. Unfortunately, although delegation is an essential skill for anyone responsible for multiple tasks and projects. It is often not accomplished well nor is it completely understood. Below are what I call The 5 "F's" of Delegation. By using the 5 "F's" as a guideline, we will not only be able to delegate more effectively, but can have better project successes and outcomes.
Providing a framework for what a delegated project or task is and the requirements that are in place, is the essential first step to ensuring whatever you delegate is understood. If you do not give clear parameters, timelines and outcomes you are setting yourself up for failure from the beginning. It is very difficult to complete a project successfully if expectations are not established from the beginning. If the project is going to occur over an extended period of time, set timelines and benchmarks and follow up.
Odds are you chose the person you are delegating to for a reason. That reason us usually because they are the best person for the job, with great subject matter knowledge and expertise. It may also be because the person needs some improvement in an area. Regardless of which reason they were chosen, they need to know why. Trust them and give them the freedom to get it done, but remain available. Let them use there own creative knowledge to accomplish the task. Do not micromanage. If you find yourself needing to micromanage, that is a failure on you not them. Go back and discuss the expectations again. Maybe you missed something. You obviously did not set clear enough expectations and parameters.
This is the part that often gets missed during delegation. You need to regularly check in to see how the project is progressing and if there are any unmet needs that were not anticipated you help address them. How many times you need to follow up depends on the complexity of the project, knowledge level of the person completing the project and the purpose of why the project was delegated. Let them know early in the process that follow up does not mean that you are micromanaging.
If you are OK with allowing the freedom to make decisions in the process, you also have to be OK with failures that occur along the way. Failure is a part of the process and it is more important how a person reacts and recovers in the event of failure than it is trying to avoid failure. The avoidance of failures in projects is an unrealistic expectation and can often times lead to more failures because of fear. Now obviously, if multiple failures are occurring, then we need to ask why. It is rare that the failures are because a person has chosen to fail. More than likely, there is a problem with the process, knowledge or the expectations. Ultimately, the successful completion of any delegated project is your responsibility. Do place blame, Take Ownership of the process, address failure points and move on.
Once the project is successfully completed, make sure to give favor to those that accomplished it. Trust me, if you have the habit of making your people feel good about the work they do and show them that you truly appreciate them, they will want make you look good. The worst thing you can do is take credit for the work of others.
By now you may be saying that if I delegate this way, it will be more work than if I just do the project on my own. This may be true in some cases, but remember that as a supervisor or manager one of your other very important responsibilities is to develop others to move up and promote. Delegation is as much about paying knowledge forward as it is about effective and efficient work sharing. Remember, the higher you advance up the career ladder, the more it becomes about others and the less it becomes about you.
"True humility is not about thinking less of yourself, but thinking about yourself less" - Rick Warren