Delegation Tip: Give a Clear Brief

I run lots of workshops where we cover delegation and one of the classic ‘traps for beginners’ (and it not’s just beginners… it could be you) is telling people the ‘how’ and not explaining the ‘why’. Why does this task need to be done? It sounds so basic, but unless people get the Big Picture context of where their contribution is going to fit into things, then it’s pretty hard for them to get motivated about the ‘how’. And yet it’s something that’s very often neglected. So when you’re delegating, start with the ‘why’. How will completing this task – to the required standard, timing and budget – help the organisation get where it’s aiming to go? How else can you give a really clear brief?

Get clear on the results required. Stephen Covey says Begin with the end in mind and it’s very true of delegation. Explain where you both need to end up – what outcomes are necessary. So ensure you’ve covered ‘why’ (the bigger picture) and ‘what’ (the results) before getting into the nitty-gritty ‘how’.

One of the best tips I’ve been given is to build a ‘grab bag’ of examples. So if you’re briefing someone to design a brochure, your grab bag will have examples of what you admire – and it can be equally informative to have examples of what you hate! If you’re delegating writing a report to someone, have examples of great reports: well structured, thought out, written and formatted, with not a typo or spelling mistake in sight. If you’re delegating a presentation, have a mix of examples that show the results you’re after. And build your grab bag from a variety of sources, such as colleagues, suppliers (ask permission) and, of course, your own work.

What about the ‘how’? Don’t be tempted to start with, Right, here’s how you do xyz…. Get the ‘why’ and ‘what’ prepared first. And when you get to the ‘how’, that’s when to aim for dialogue, which we’ll deal with in another post.

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