Delegation: The Challenges and the Opportunities

I’ve challenged myself to do some critical thinking about the skills associated with being an effective delegator. Done right, delegation can create a win-win situation by amplifying your own effectiveness and creating growth opportunities for the people who work with you. And my grandmother often said that the simple act of asking for help was a really good way to build friendships.

The last few years have been big growth years for Atomic Object. We’ve hung out our shingle in Detroit and Ann Arbor, and hired several new people. All along, the demand for our services has increased steadily, and with size comes increased business complexity. Correspondingly, my workload has grown a lot, and sometimes I (like most busy people) wish I could magically add more hours to the day and generate more personal energy to accomplish everything that needs to be done to keep the Atomic machine running smoothly.

The reality is I need some help. I need to delegate some of my work responsibilities to the talented people I’m lucky to work with. Naturally, I started doing some reading on the subject.

Here are some helpful perspectives:

… from Amy Gallo’s article Why Aren’t You Delegating?:

Be Self-Aware

Giving up being ‘the go-to expert’ takes tremendous confidence and perspective even in the healthiest environments … But accepting that you can’t do everything yourself is a critical first step to delegating.

Have a Good Team

Some managers fear delegation because they’ve been burned in the past. It’s important that you pass on work to people who have the necessary skills and are motivated to get the job done right. Ideally, you should be able to delegate some form of work to everyone on your team.

Boost Skills Development

If you want people to learn, you have to permit them to make mistakes and figure out how to correct them …Micromanaging defeats the whole purpose. Be careful though. It’s possible to be too hands off.

… from Scot Herrick’s blog Cube Rules:

Prototype, Prototype, Prototype

Here’s the deal: No matter how clear you think you are in the delegation, you’re not clear. Don’t care who you are, what you have in your head is not the picture in the other person’s head. It won’t match no matter how good you think you communicate. Thus, tell the person to do one thing with what was just delegated.

For example, if you want your information back in a spreadsheet, have that person create the spreadsheet with all the row and column labels and fill in two lines with real information. Then review it with that person to insure everyone is on the same track.

Most likely, you will catch different interpretations of what you just delegated. And, most likely, the person taking on the task will have great ideas on how your task could be done better — format, information, or method of delivery. It makes the entire deliverable that much better.

… from Harvey Mackay’s article 6 ways to delegate more effectively:

1. Don’t look for perfection.

2. Provide complete job instructions.

3. Stop believing you’re the only one who can do the job properly.

4. Focus on teaching skills.

5. Check on progress.

6. Say thank you to the people who have accepted the responsibility.

I’ve got some homework to do, and I’m confident that persistence is a major influencer of success in becoming an effective delegator.

What major wins or losses have you had with your attempts to effectively delegate within your own work? What lessons have you learned?