Drowning in Work? Here’s How to Quickly Delegate

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Cynthia Kyriazis

Delegating is a key time management concept. The intent is to help a manager give up certain tasks or projects so they can focus on higher priority issues or issues that require their skill.

As the years have passed I’ve seen fewer and fewer organizations train new managers on how to delegate. What I do see is well intentioned supervisors who are micromanaging. The outcome? Frustrated employee, frustrated manager, and higher turnover rates.

A case in point was a large organization that promoted 10 individual contributors to Director-level positions. The majority of these employees had never supervised anyone. One employee told me ‘I can’t stay on top of everything I have to do and everyone working for me. It’s not humanly possible. But I have no idea what to give my staff or my support person. They’re frustrated and I’m buried’.

What to do? Delegating is really about communicating and tracking information. Here are 3 basic, but fundamental tips for being successful:

  • Communicate the expectation.When you delegate, you give specific instruction about what is needed and hopefully put it in the context of an overall organization/department plan. But remember that specific instructions need to be coupled with setting a level of expectation for the employees work and the project itself.
  • Communicate the plan.As a supervisor, take the lead by planning and organizing what you will communicate when assigning projects and setting expectations. If you’re not clear about what needs to happen and when, the person receiving the assignment will be unclear as well. Part of your planning process should include setting up regularly scheduled periodic reviews to see how the employee is progressing. This also provides them with an anticipated platform and time frame they know they can ask questions. This helps make sure they are either on the right track or they need to correct course.
  • Communicate these 5 things. More than likely you have heard the acronym S.M.A.R.T. when it comes to setting goals. This very same acronym can be used a checklist for communicating the assignment.
    • Specific – Include who, what, why, when and where in our instructions. Including a history of how the project came into being is helpful for the employee to understand the assignment in context.
    • Measurable – Explain how both of you will know if and when the assignment has been successfully completed. Have the end in mind and share it.
    • Attainable – Is this a realistically achievable assignment? Can it be done within the timeline outlined? The best way to de-motivate someone is to assign a project that can’t realistically be accomplished.
    • Relevant – Is the project relevant to what the employee does? Has the employee shown an interest in the topic? Do they have a skill set that would help get the project to completion. It’s true that you can’t always pick the person you want, but odds are better for a good fit if you ask these types of questions.
    • Timeline – When will the project begin? What are the significant milestones? Have you scheduled your regular review dates in your calendars? Is there a Plan B?

It’s important to remember that not only does delegating help you leverage your time, but it also identifies and prepares employees for future assignments and possible promotions. Communicating expectations, having an organized and planned approach and using the SMART method is important to you, the employee and the organization for future growth and stability.

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