7 questions to ask yourself before you delegate

A sure sign you’re not ready to delegate is if you find yourself asking one of your team, “Could you just have a think about [insert the vague, half-baked idea you had in the shower here]?” Most of us have fallen into this trap at some point or other and know it’s none too effective. Unfortunately for others – and those who work for them – it’s the default setting.

Image “S.S. Dunbrody stranded in Avon”, National Library of Ireland via NewOldStock

Take a moment to ask yourself these questions before you delegate anything to a colleague and you’ll both start on the right track.

  1. Why does this task exist?
  2. Clue: think bigger picture. It’s vital that people know where the widget they’re working on fits in. If you’re assembling parts of cars, it’s pretty obvious that the bits you’re fitting together are essential to the overall running and safety of the vehicle. But in organisations it’s not always so easy to draw the dotted line between a small task and its overall context. Why does data need to be entered? Why do competitor reviews need to be compiled and analysed?

  3. What does good look like?
  4. Before you consider all the steps in the task my advice is to start with a 5-star example of the finished article. This will save you both heaps of time demystifying and avoid any misunderstanding about the quality required. Examples are the simplest way to show someone what good looks like.

  5. What exactly is needed?
  6. No examples? Make sure you have a clear specification of what’s needed and why. Is it a legal requirement? Or an informal update? The specification should include how the result – let’s say a report – will be used and by whom.

  7. What are the key steps?
  8. If you’ve been handling this task for a while, chances are you’re now doing it on auto-pilot – good for you. Not so good when it comes to delegating however; it’s all too easy to forget the essential steps to take to get the job done. See if you can list the steps to take, in order (and bear in mind the person you’re delegating to may come up with a better way).

  9. What’s the delivery deadline?
  10. Don’t give false deadlines when you delegate – people will soon wise up to your ways. But do agree key stages and mini deadlines along the way when you will check on progress, review a draft, rehearse the presentation etc., before it’s handed over.

  11. What support will be needed?
  12. Does the person you’re delegating to have the experience and/or technical skills and capabilities to do what you’re about to ask of them? Or will they need additional support and training to be able to get the job done? Remember, learners take longer so you may need to tweak your timings accordingly.

  13. What resources are available?
  14. You’re a resource: when will you be available to answer questions, review progress and provide support? Other colleagues are resources: who are the experts on the tasks you’re delegating? Equipment and facilities are resources: what can be provided to help get the job done?

You may find this blog post useful: ‘10 reasons why you need to delegate more’.

Dawn is the author of ‘How to be Zoomly at work’, available on Amazon.

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