There are lots of reasons not to delegate; it’s just easier to do yourself, you can do it better, you can do it faster, or (the classic) it takes longer to explain it than to do it yourself. And, ultimately, people assume that because you don’t have authority, you shouldn’t delegate. This thinking is not true!
There are times when we are not the right person to perform a task. Perhaps someone else has a unique specialty. If you perform the task instead of them, you may be stepping on toes, and it isn’t a good use of your time (or the company money to pay you to do a task someone else is an expert in).
[ctt template=”3″ link=”l1cGb” via=”yes” ]We need to have the wisdom to know when we should be delegating. Then, once we have the wisdom, we need to have the skill to delegate properly.[/ctt]
We need to have the wisdom to know when we should be delegating. Then, once we have the wisdom, we need to have the skill to delegate properly.
1. Delegate, not dump. Why are you delegating? You need to have a reason you are delegating, and that reason shouldn’t be because you hate the task. If you are delegating because you don’t enjoy it, you are dumping, and your recipient will likely feel that. Sometimes we delegate because we have too much work to do. Did you pick your least favorite task to delegate (which is dumping), or did you pick the task that will help you out most, and you know the other person won’t feel dumped on once they receive it?
Warren and I share household chores. My favorite is laundry, and his is washing cars. I hate washing floors, and he hates taking out the garbage. When our household chores start to feel overwhelming, we often pick a Saturday and get things done. I know that I can ask him for help and vice versa. If I ask Warren to wash floors, he feels dumped on because he knows I hate that chore. He doesn’t feel like he is helping out then; he feels taken advantage of. However, if I ask him to throw in a load of laundry (even if he hates it), he knows that I am not dumping an unwanted chore on him. He may not love it, but he realizes I’m not dumping on him (as I do enjoy that task).
2. Communicate why you are delegating that task. For example, let them know that you need help with “X” task, and the reason you are going to them is that they are the subject matter expert, or that you know they enjoy that task and it would help you out immensely.
Please don’t make it all about how busy you are. Yes, you can explain you are overwhelmed with tasks but don’t whine. Instead, explain why you are asking them to do that task; make it more about why you are asking for that task rather than how busy you are.
If Warren says to me, “Rhonda, I am so busy with balancing the bank account, there is no way I can do all the work I have today. I could have a week and not get caught up. There is just too much work to do, and I’m swamped. I’ve worked overtime three days this week alone…” And on, and on. By the time he asks me to help out, he has made this all about him!
Instead, he should say, “Rhonda, I am up to my eyeballs with deadlines this week, and I could really use your help if at all possible. I know that I need to get three things sent to the printer, and I know your eagle eyes are the ones to look at them instead of my distracted eyes. So can you please proofread these and send them to the printer for me?”
3. Focus on the end result, not the process. If you micromanage the entire process, you will find that you have few willing coworkers the next time you need help getting things done. No one enjoys working for a micromanager.
The household dishwasher is a classic example. If you ask your teens to load the dishwasher, you should be focused on the fact that all your dishes are in the dishwasher. That is the end result you want.
However, if you insist that all cutlery points in a specific direction, you have plates on the left and bowls on the right, etc., you are more focused on the process than the end result. This often feels like micromanaging and discourages people from helping you as you are too controlling.
If the goal is dishes in the dishwasher, that is where your input should stop. If your goal is dishes in the dishwasher, how you would load them yourself, you are too controlling. On the other hand, if your goal is to have the dishes put in the dishwasher, ensuring nothing comes out broken and no plastic melts, that is what the task is (not just loading the dishwasher).
Safety and compliance are different things, and it is reasonable to control some of the processes if that is the case.
When communicating the task, we have to be clear on our expectations. The longer the explanation, the more likely you are to have someone who feels dumped on.
If Warren were to ask me to wash the cars (his favorite chore) and ask me, saying, “I want you to wash the cars if you don’t mind as I’m working on getting the garden weeded, and this would help me out a lot. I need you to wash your car first, and the water needs to be at 58 degrees. You start at the passenger front seat, using clockwise circular motions, and only use the clean soapy water….” You get where I am going. I’ll wonder if he thinks I’m an idiot, as I have washed cars before. I’ll feel like he is speaking to me condescendingly, and I’ll have a natural push back thinking that I have no desire to help him out at all.
4. Keep the communication pathways open. If you delegate, you must be willing to answer questions, be available, and support others.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”hk_C5″ via=”yes” ]When delegating, keep the communication pathways open. This is precisely why people complain that it takes longer to explain the task than to do it themselves. Especially the first time we delegate a task, there may be a training component involved.[/ctt]
We need to encourage the other person to feel free to ask us questions during the process too. If we wait to the end of the task and then point out what is wrong, it isn’t very encouraging. If we let the other person know that we are available at any time if they have questions, they aren’t as likely to get to the end and find out they need to start over.
It’s a long game. The next time this task needs delegating, they will be much better at doing it and need you less.
5. Say thank you and give credit. This last step is the one most easily forgotten. When someone helps you out (which they did!), take a few extra minutes to deliver a sincere thank you.
Be sure to avoid the generic, “Thank you for your help.” That isn’t sincere enough; it doesn’t sound authentic. It sounds more like auto pilot.
Find something they did especially well. Point out how their help helped you.
“Thanks, Rhonda, for doing that for me” is not enough. Instead, try, “Thanks, Rhonda, for doing that for me. Your formatting is different than how I have done it in the past, and I love yours so much better.” Or, “Thanks, Rhonda, for doing that for me. I love that you were able to step up and help at a moment’s notice. I hope I can do the same for you in the future.”
Delegating is more about teamwork than authority. If you take the time to delegate properly, you’ll find the team supports you when it is needed. Of course, it goes without saying that you need to support them when they need help too.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”svc6g” via=”yes” ]Stop using excuses why you can’t delegate. Start using technique and gratitude.[/ctt]
Stop using excuses and start using technique and gratitude. It goes a long way!