“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I grumbled and shook my head. For what seemed like the 37th time that week, an assignment I’d delegated had not come back on time. I wondered once again how to delegate work so that it actually gets done.
I was so tired of chasing down unfinished tasks and stressed because the time I spent making sure those things happened was taking me away from other critical tasks.
It wasn’t that my people were unmotivated or incompetent. They were awesome: they loved their work and were good at what they did. Like you, however, they often faced a day full of competing priorities and unexpected crises that had to be handled quickly.
Fortunately, I discovered a solution…
You know you’re supposed to delegate.
You understand that you can’t achieve breakthrough results on your own, that leadership means achieving results through relationships, and that when you delegate, you multiply yourself.
You know all that, but delegation can still be, in the words of one of our clients, “So freakin’ frustrating!”
How often have you delegated something, only to find yourself many weeks later thinking, “Whatever happened to that project?”
It happened to me so many times – until I learned one vital step about how to delegate work effectively.
This one delegation secret changed everything for me and ensured that almost every delegated assignment came back on time and complete.
What would it mean for you if you never had to chase down another unfinished assignment or project? How much time would you save? How much more productive could you be?
How to Delegate Work So Nothing Falls Through the Cracks
Surprisingly, this is a delegation process very few leaders use and yet it is simple and you can use it right away. Before I give you the tool, let’s take a quick look at delegation.
Delegation is the act of sharing responsibility and authority for a task, project, or outcome with another person. This definition is important – you’ll see why in a moment.
Before you delegate, you want to make sure of three things:
- The person you delegate to has the information necessary to succeed.
- You have time to delegate effectively. If you must train the other person before you can delegate to them, allow time for this.
- Finally, the task you want to delegate isn’t part of the work that only you should do. For instance, you don’t want to delegate a performance conversation that your management role requires you to have (believe it or not, we’ve seen people do this.)
Okay, so let’s say you’ve checked off those items. It’s time to delegate: you clearly describe the outcome and set a clear finish line for when the assignment will be completed.
Most leaders do that much, but when you’re focused on how to delegate so nothing falls through the cracks, there is one more critical step and this is what changes everything:
Mutually schedule a time to receive the task.
If the prototype is due on the last day of the month, make an appointment with the person to meet with you and show you what they’ve done.
If the assignment is to survey customers, prepare their comments, and provide a recommendation, set a specific time on a specific day when you will meet together and they will share what they did.
A specific time. A specific day.
When someone knows they will be sitting down with you at a specific moment in time, the task won’t get buried and forgotten. If there’s a real possibility that they won’t get it done, most people will come talk to you. Then you can provide coaching or help them manage their workload.
When you mutually schedule an appointment to receive the task, you’ve started from a place of active accountability. Most people won’t show up to that meeting empty-handed. (And if they do, it’s time for a serious INPSIRE conversation.)
When we share this delegation tool, leaders often have two “Yeah, but what about…?” reactions.
The first is “Yeah, but this will take too much time.”
The reality is that it will save you time. A five-minute meeting to receive the task saves you countless hours of wasted time chasing down incomplete work.
The second is “Yeah, but what about longer projects? If you wait until the end to meet, it’s too late.”
That’s true. For longer projects, schedule periodic updates where the person you’ve delegated to will bring you a progress update, an outline, or whatever intermediary step is appropriate. The key is that they bring something to the meeting that shows their progress.
Remember that when you delegate, you’re still responsible: you share responsibility, you don’t give up responsibility. You are still responsible to ensure your team achieves what it is you delegated.
Schedule the follow-up at the same time you delegate the task and you’ll never again waste time chasing down forgotten assignments.
Leave us a comment and share your thoughts, questions, and tips to delegate so that nothing falls through the cracks.