Work Less, Produce More:
5 Steps to Delegating with Authority
By Christi Youd
you’re one of the many business professionals today trying to do
more in less time, you know that delegation is a must.
Unfortunately, the majority of business people reveal that they
dislike delegating. Either they believe the delegated task will
“fall through the cracks” and never get done, or that it will get
done, but not to their liking. As such, they refuse to delegate
anything to anyone unless it’s absolutely necessary, and even then
they often opt to work longer hours rather than turn the task over
to someone else.
though, that not delegating causes more stress to you and leads
others to believe that you don’t trust them or don’t want them to
take on new responsibilities. That’s when people view you as a
“control freak” who refuses to let anything go.
news is that effective delegation follows a simple process that
anyone can learn. And whether you’re a manager overwhelmed with
deadlines and meetings or a business owner trying to stay on time
with multiple projects and travel schedules, the following five tips
will enable you to delegate effectively and be more productive.
1. Be committed to the full delegation cycle: Proper
delegation is actually a cycle. Think of it like the links of a
chain, where each link interacts with others. Every link has four
points, just as the delegation cycle does.
top of the link intertwines and comes away from the link above
it. This represents the task coming to you from some other
source, such as a supervisor or customer.
link then circles around and interacts with the links next to it
and below it. One side of the interaction represents you
delegating portions of the assignment to others.
other side of the interaction represents you following up to get
a report from the people you delegated to.
Finally, the link completes the cycle and returns to its point
of origin. This represents you forwarding the report, decision,
or findings to the source that originally gave you the task.
Be sure to complete all four points of interaction with every
assignment. If you neglect any of these four points, the link is
broken and the chain loses its strength. That’s when the delegation
2. Delegate in writing: Often the delegation process breaks
down because the person being delegated to is unclear on the details
of the assignment. And rather than ask you for clarification (and
possibly appear incompetent) the person sits on the assignment
hoping you’ll give some additional clues about what you really want.
That’s why you need to put every delegated task in writing.
The written document can be a simple e-mail or it can be something
more formal, such as a detailed process sheet. The purpose of
writing the task out is that it causes you to slow down enough and
include all the details someone needs to complete the task
successfully. Additionally, your written note provides clarification
for the person who receives it. He or she can refer back to your
written instructions while doing the task to make sure the work is
being done right.
Yes, written delegation takes more time then verbal delegation.
However, remember that for every minute you spend writing out the
details, you save one hour in execution.
3. Train your team members to report back on time: In your
written instructions, be sure to tell people when you want them to
report back to you, both with progress updates and the final
product. Be specific. For example, rather than say, “Please give me
regular updates on your progress,” say, “Please provide me a status
update every Friday at 2 p.m. for the next two months, or until the
project is completed.” And instead of saying, “Finish this by
Wednesday,” say, “Please complete this task by noon on Wednesday.”
Being specific removes any guesswork and enables your team to live
up to your expectations.
When team members report back on time, make a big deal about it.
Thank them for completing the assignment and congratulate them for
reporting back within the timeframe outlined. Likewise, when they
fail to report back on time, make an even bigger deal about it. Even
if they completed the task but didn’t report back to you with the
final product, help them realize that reporting back is every bit as
important as getting the task done. With every delegated assignment,
you need to reinforce the importance of reporting back in a timely
4. Use a reminder system to ensure proper follow up: Never
delegate an assignment and completely leave it up to the other
person to make sure it gets done. Just as the person you delegate to
needs to be accountable for reporting in, you need to be accountable
for following up.
Your reminder system can be your daily planner, a tickler file
system, or any other system that works for you. Place a note in your
reminder system to follow up with a team member if you have not
received the report, update, or task as requested. So if you give
the team member the deadline of Friday at 2:00 p.m. for a progress
update, then you enter into your own reminder system to follow up
with the person at 4:00 p.m. if he or she does not meet that
deadline. Give the team member the full opportunity to report to you
before you track the individual down for follow up.
Important: Only follow up when the person misses a requested update
or deadline. You don’t want to train people that you will be
following up with them on a regular basis, as that leaves the task’s
responsibility with you. Rather, you want to train them that they
are expected to report back to you, making them responsible for the
delegated item. That’s why you set the progress updates and
deadlines in writing. If they don’t report as scheduled, you must
follow up. If they don’t report and you don’t follow up, the
delegation cycle is broken and the process fails.
5. Report back to the person you received the assignment from:
Just because you receive the delegated task back completed (and
to your satisfaction) doesn’t mean you’re done. Always remember to
complete the cycle by reporting back to the person who initially
gave you the task. Tell your boss the findings; give the customer
the information he or she needed; share your report with the Board.
Keep the communication chain in tact so others learn that they can
trust you as well.
Delegate to Win: If you want to free up some of your time so
you can focus on your core duties or income producing activities,
you need to delegate effectively. So examine those tasks that are
repetitive in nature and decide which ones someone else can do. Then
delegate effectively by writing out your task, training people to
report on time, doing proper follow up, and finally completing the
cycle and reporting your results. Taking the time to get the
delegation process right pays great dividends, in the form of
increased productivity, on-track company objectives, and reduced
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