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How to delegate so things actually get done

Written by Eric Partaker on Tuesday, 09 February 2021. Posted in Leadership, People

Everyone knows the importance of delegation, but very few people know how to delegate effectively so that things actually get done.

How to delegate so things actually get done

Everyone knows the importance of delegation, but very few people know how to delegate effectively so that things actually get done. As a result, they feel overburdened by their work, perhaps disappointed with their team's performance, and then ultimately frustrated and burnt out.

As a CEO, delegating effectively was critical to my success. Here's how to up your delegation game:

Delegate outcomes, not tasks. 

Let me give you an example. Let's say that you want to hire a new marketing director within your team or company. You then ask a member of your team to engage a few recruiters to help find the right candidate. A week or two later you ask the team member how it's going. You find out they contacted a few firms but haven't really concluded anything or progressed things further. The lack of results relates to having delegated a task rather than an outcome. The objective isn't to identify a few recruitment firms, it's to hire a marketing director. It would have been much more effective to delegate the outcome you want, before needing to step in and make a final decision. So in this example, you could have asked the team member to create and execute a process that will deliver 3-5 final candidates for you to interview (on the same day) 2 months from today. Now they will need to think through all the tasks necessary to create that outcome, from identifying recruiters to kicking off the search process, to thinking through the interview rounds, as well as any assignment for final round candidates. And you will have not only delegated more effectively, but you will have also spiked their autonomy, one of the key intrinsic motivators in the workplace! Of course the team member is free to ask for any guidance or help along the way and should be encouraged to do so.

Let go

It's impossible to delegate well, if you don't truly let go. Team members need to be able to learn both from their successes and their mistakes, which doesn't happen if you have to keep your hands on everything. Perhaps you're worried that people won't produce at the same level that you're capable of producing. But here's the thing, you'll never achieve greatness on your own. You can only achieve it with the help of others. A team together can move much more strongly and forcefully with greater results than any individual on the planet. This has always been the case since the beginning of time and will continue to be so. Let go so that others can prove themselves capable of doing whatever it is that you're trying to achieve. This isn't to say you shouldn't verify their progress and results, but trust them to have a go at driving the progress between checkpoints.  

Be crystal clear on the numbers 

When I say numbers I mean both due dates and metrics. At the very least, any outcome you seek will have a target number in the form of a date, so in this sense every single delegated outcome has a number attached to it. Be crystal clear when you expect outcomes to be delivered by. If metrics are associated with the outcomes you've delegated then specify the "X to Y". For example, don't delegate a "growth in margins". Instead, delegate "Grow profit margin from 35% to 42% by 31st December 2021".

Coach, don't solve

A team member is far more likely to run into challenges when you delegate an outcome than if you simply delegate a task. It's imperative that you meet with your team member regularly to provide support and accountability to help them navigate these challenges. But it's also important to not solve the problems for them, but coach them instead. A framework that I love using when coaching people through the inevitable difficulties is the GROW coaching model. Each of the four letters just stands for a part of the framework that you use to guide your conversation with that person. The G stands for goal. Ask your team member "What's the goal here?" Get them to restate it so they become rooted in the goal and the why behind it, once again. The R is for reality. We want to get the person that we're coaching to paint the present picture. Where are you now in relation to this goal? What's your current reality? What problems or challenges are you facing? Where are you today? The O is for options. We want them to generate options for how they might go from where they are today, to where they need to be, in pursuit of the goal. What's one additional way they could be moving this forward you might ask. Who might they ask for help? You're asking questions, but getting them to generate answers and solutions. The W stands for way forward or will. Here you're trying to tap into their motivation by having them pick one of these options. Which of these options will they choose? When are they going to commit to doing it? When might we check in on this again? So, in summary, don't solve the problem for them, but help them generate and commit to a potential way forward by using the GROW model.

Don't put a striker in goal

If we're managing a football team, we're not going to ask a striker to suddenly step in as the goalkeeper. We also must delegate to the right person, or we're setting ourselves up for failure. Consider if the outcome you're delegating (not the task!) really suits the individual, their skills, competencies, drive, and motivation, as well as where they are in the team and organization. This isn't to say that we shouldn't push people and delegate an outcome that lies outside their comfort zone, just that we must make sure we have the right person for the job.

Keep the above 5 principles in mind and you'll not only delegate so that things actually get done, but also lighten your workload and reduce your frustration!

About the Author

Eric Partaker

Eric Partaker

Eric Partaker is a high performance coach for business leaders and captains of industry, helping them and their companies to scale-up. He advised 50 CEOs while at McKinsey & Company, and was a key player in building Skype’s multi-billion-dollar success story.

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