Delegate or Die! How To Get More Done.
Updated: Sep 16, 2021
Once upon a time in the 3rd century B.C., there was a mathematician, scientist, engineer, and philosopher named Archimedes who often said, "Give me a lever and a place to stand and I shall move the Earth with it." Archimedes was talking about leverage. The art and science of applying a small amount of energy to a well built system and doing an amazing amount of work.
The ultimate business leverage is delegation. Delegating is also a science and an art. Delegation, by the way, is one of the three career killers, which are: communication, delegation, and time management. When you reach the limit of your delegating skills, when you're not able to delegate any more tasks in your career, that's where your career stops. There is - forgive me - there should be no pride in doing all the things yourself. True leaders get stuff done without doing things themselves. So don't just do it, just get it done. Here are the Keys to Delegating. To be a master delegator, to keep growing as a leader, you need to do all these steps. In order. Every time.
Know The Goal.
Start by knowing what your goal is. Do expert goal setting before you delegate a task.
Choose the Right Person.
Figure out who's got the resources, the talent, the skills, the time, the energy, and the passion, to get this thing done as well.
Share the Background and Facts.
Describe how you got to this point, what the goal is, what are the issues, and the reason why this goal is important. Why is it that we want to achieve this goal? Make sure you share that information with the right person so that they can bring the same amount of passion, integrity, and ownership that you're bringing to the goal.
Clearly define results.
If you know the goal and you've written a smart goal in the first place, you should have a pretty good idea of what success will look like. Make sure you clearly define success and share that definition of success with the person you're delegating to. Don't leave anything to chance.
Encourage Feedback & Questions.
After you've clearly defined success, stop talking and listen. Get feedback and questions from the person you're delegating to. Give them every opportunity to clarify. Use the communication loop. Make sure that they play the back to you. That way, you’ll know you did a good job communicating the goal in the first place. If there is misunderstanding, start over, instead of hoping for the best.
Set clear deadlines.
Make sure that you know what the deadline is and make sure that the person you're delegating to knows what the deadline is. Say the deadline out loud and ask them to say it back to you. Be crystal clear about deadlines. Something without a deadline is due… never!
Give the whole job to one person.
The easiest way to spot a weak leader is if they give a goal to several people and expect them to figure out who is in charge. It’s disrespectful and inefficient. So, don't assign a task or goal to multiple people. Make sure there's one owner of this goal, one owner of this result. They may go get help from other people, but they're the one you're talking to, they're the one who owns this, they're the one who's responsible. Don't spread it out because then you'll get he-said-she-said nonsense, and “I thought you were doing it,” excuses. When everybody’s in charge, nobody’s in charge. High performing organizations don't do that. High performing organizations assign a task to a person.
Provide All the Necessary Resources.
Ask, “Is there anything you need to get this done?” Take the time to discuss the goal and be sure that the person you’re delegating to has the tools, authority, time, and other resources to be successful.
Offer Guidance Without Micromanaging.
Don't step in halfway through just because you think you can do a better job, or because you’re unsure of where things stand. Trust person you've delegated to. Let them handle the goal from end to end. Let them manage through this process themselves. If you step in and take over, you errode that person's trust, you waste your own time, and you damage standing as a leader. Offer guidance without micromanaging. As an aside, when you're offering guidance, see if you can do it by only asking questions. People tend to know the right thing to do. If you ask them the right number of questions and guide them.
Set S.M.A.R.T Goals.
Make sure your goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Without all these attributes, it’s hard to know if a goal has been achieved, or not. Don’t set yourself, or your people up for failure through ambiguity.
Follow up is not the same thing as taking over. Remember, You’re not micromanaging, you’re not taking over. You're just checking in. Don't wait for the last minute. Don't live in hope. Follow up at regular intervals now and the time the goal is due so that you know how it's going and so that the person you delegate it to knows that you are following up. This goal wasn't a blow off.
Give Full Credit For Success.
When that person succeeds in achieving the goal, give them one hundred percent of the credit. As the leader, you get zero percent. Imagine you get a thing done through delegation ,and you deliver it to your board of directors and they say, “Hey, way to go!” That’s’ when you say, “It wasn't me, it was Bill. I delegated that to Bill and he absolutely crushed it. He is an amazing player and we're lucky to have him on the team.”
Take Full Responsibility for Failure.
The flip side of that is taking full responsibility for failure. If you delegate this to Bill and Bill doesn't come through, when the board asks, “Why isn't this done,” what you're not going to do is you're not going to blame Bill. You are a leader. You take responsibility for any failure of the team. The players get responsibility for success, the leader takes responsibility for failure.
And those are the steps to successful delegation. You've got to do them in this order, and you've got to do them all. As a leader you must master delegation. You must get better and better and better at delegating all the time. Because if you don’t, your next boss will.