A recent executive coaching client said to me “Colin, I know that I need to delegate more, but there is something preventing me from doing it…”
Delegation is one of those skills where most people say they need to ‘do it more’ but have a whole bunch of beliefs and misguided methods that prevent them from delegating.
The higher you move into leadership the more you’ll notice it becomes about communication.
In essence, delegation is the skill of conceptual and influential communication.
Highly skilled delegation is about understanding the task, project or role and articulating the delegation piece at the right conceptual level.
Here is how to master the 2 levels of delegation:
Task – most people delegate on the task level. This is usually the easiest, it requires the least risk, but it’s very limited in its ability to release the leader to do more important things. This level is what most people think of when they delegate. If you’ve ever thought to yourself “this is going to be quicker for me to do it myself than to delegate” then you’re thinking on task level. Sure, task delegation is needed in but it’s 1.0 in delegation and won’t free you up immensely. Keeping this in mind, when you’re delegating at task level I recommend sharing 3 things. Ensure the purpose of the task is made clear, the requirements of the task clarified and a timeframe of delivery and agreed upon. Not rock science I know, but wait for the next level. That’s where the magic happens.
Project – delegating projects is where it starts becoming fun. Your leadership and productivity will dramatically improve when you learn to delegate projects effectively. Most people make the mistake when delegating a project of being too vague, or providing too much specificity. This, in turn, makes the person leave feeling unsure of what’s required, or completely overwhelmed.
The art of delegating a project is built around 3 concepts.
1. Outcome – when you’re delegating a project, specify the outcome or goal of the project. Using a methodology like S.M.A.R.T is fine because at this level you’re looking to come up with one sentence that describes the outcome. For example, “Launch new company website by December 31”.
2. Reasons – spend some time to uncover of the reasons for why the project is important. This is the fuel for the project. Reasons could include: it will give the team clarity, drive profit, make people feel a sense of progress and success. This stuff should feel a bit “fluffy”, but don’t be fooled, it’s the fluff that will fuel the engine.
3. Success criteria – [here is some cool magic, which I learnt from Dan Sullivan] when delegating projects, never delegate the specific tasks the person needs to do. When you do this it takes away the autonomy and critical thinking required to implement a project. Instead, clarify the criteria of success. In other words, what the project will look like and exhibit when it’s successful. The difference between a criteria of success and a task is that a task is practical and a criteria of success is conceptual. For example the task might be “design the website on a jpg” but the success criteria is “the layout of the website must be clean and reflect our company’s look and feel”. The steps should be identified by the owner of the project not the leader. Delegate the ‘conceptual success criteria’, not the tasks involved. This will make you as a leader feel released to let the person think for themselves about the how, but be agreed on the what and why. [Bammm…I know cool hey!?]
Stop delegating tasks and start handing off projects.
This will release you in your leadership to be more productive because you’ll be able to focus on the stuff that really matters.
However, delegation is only one piece of a bigger productivity puzzle.