6 Easy Steps to Give It Away and Win Big!
It’s 6:25pm; you reach for the next thing in your in-basket (that NEEDS to get done) and notice that the basket is higher than it was yesterday. After a full day of hard work, it’s still higher! Geeezzzzzz! You look around to discover that it’s really quiet. That’s because you are the only one left in the office. You drop the folder on the desk in front of you; pick up the rubber band you took off the folder and stretch it between your two hands, rock back in your chair for a minute and stare at the in-basket. You think, “Why can’t I get this stuff done?”
The good news is that you are not alone and this work CAN be done. The bad news is, “you can’t get it all done because – you can’t get it all done.” And there you have it. It is truly that simple, but too many people don’t believe that truth. For some unknown reason people think that they are “Superman” or “Superwoman” and they can do it all. They COULD delegate it (“give it away”) to others so it will get done, but they don’t…and here is a list of some of the reasons they give as to why they won’t delegate anything:
- I can do it quicker by myself
- I don’t have time to train anybody
- I don’t trust them to do it right
- They don’t know how important this is
- This stuff is MY responsibility
- This really won’t take me that long
- They have other things they need to do
- This has to be done at MY level
- I’m going to look really good when I do this myself
This is not an exhaustive list of reasons (or excuses) and I’m sure you could add some you have heard, but in the end, most of them simply are not true or worthy of thinking about. As a supervisor you are not just a boss, you need to be a leader too. Leaders support and help their people grow in their professional career and taking work from them does not allow either. Here are a few reasons why you should be delegating work:
- The work educates your people
- It builds confidence and raises their self-esteem and self-worth
- Delegating work gives you more time to do your job – Supervise!
- It teaches accountability
- It builds, trust, respect and a team atmosphere
- Sometimes “they” truly do things better than you
- You are only required to make sure the work gets done, not to do it all yourself
- If it’s not confidential, there is no reason not to delegate it
Again, not an exhaustive list, but you get the picture. Your subordinates gain a lot more by doing the work than you do by trying to do it all yourself. You trying to be a super hero gains nothing.
One more thing that few people ever think about. When supervisors continually do their own work, the work of their subordinates, accomplish major portions of the subordinate’s work, or take previously assigned work back from the subordinate, leaves the subordinate feeling intimidated by their supervisor. The subordinate thinks that there is no way for them to measure up to the supervisor’s standard (that they are setting).
The supervisor does not mean to exemplify a “top this” attitude or characteristic, but sometimes that’s how it seems to the subordinate. It’s a total misunderstanding, but it’s there. Good leaders don’t want to intimidate and manipulate, they want to motivate and convince. By giving them the work and educating them on how to do it better, they learn, become more confident, and grow professionally and as a person.
By the way, if you ever want to take time off, someone else needs to know what’s going on in your office and that isn’t going to happen if you don’t spread the work around. If you want to take a couple of weeks off, or even just a day and not have to worry about your cell phone blowing up with calls, delegate the work.
How to delegate effectively
Now that you have decided this “delegation thing” is a good idea, here are a few steps to take that will help you give the work away (and not micro-manage):
- Ensure the person has the right skills and talent to do the job. I didn’t say they could do the tasking already, but they do need to have the capabilities. If they don’t have the capabilities, you are setting them up for failure and you up for frustration. Nobody wins in this situation.
- Give them all your expectations. Unless it is a previously established standardized process you do not want to tell them “how” to do it, but you do need to tell them what results you expect. They should figure out the rest, which is exactly what you want them to do in order to learn. Make sure you explain every detail such that they have no questions. And try to make sure you give them all the information they need to do the job. Sometimes we get in the middle of the forest and forget they don’t know everything we do.
- Set up a regular meeting. This is critical, especially for bigger projects or for people new to being assigned work. When you set this “regular meeting” up, (perhaps once a week) ask them to come to you with three things: the Project name, the Progress thus far, and their Problems and possible solutions they have (known as the 3 P’s). This meeting should last about 15 minutes. Now you are not wondering how they are doing and you don’t have to chase them down to ask questions.
- Hold them accountable. We just talked about setting up a regular meeting and in doing so they will have a date and time to be there; let them know how important it is to show up on time. It’s disrespectful, to waste your time (and theirs) to be late. If they are not meeting your expectations, let them know through solid objective feedback and find out why they haven’t met those specific objectives. Then help the individual get back on track. It’s important to help but not to do their work for them. This is their project now, not yours. Unless it’s a major disaster, never take the project back.
- Answer their questions and support them. However, these should be substantial questions they are asking. Make it clear in the beginning that this is their project and they can complete it as they see fit and you will be more than happy to discuss their questions in the preset meeting. Now, if you know there is a particular aspect of this project that will be particularly difficult, then when they work in that area they can come to you for guidance any time, but other than that, this is “their” project. If you don’t make this distinction, you run the risk of having them in your office every ten minutes asking you inconsequential questions like, what color the back cover of the report needs to be.
- When the project or tasking is done, give them feedback. Please don’t miss this one. Let’s hope there is a lot of positive feedback to give them, but there will be some “improvement” feedback too. (That is feedback that tells them how they can improve.) When the project is done, if you just pat them on the back and say, “Nice job” you aren’t helping them. They may have done a nice job, but they need to know why and how to improve so they can grow, learn from the experience and become better.
Delegating is a great thing when used correctly. Remember, you can’t do it all. If you could, why would you need your subordinates? Use the talent and expertise you have all around you. Most people want to have meaningful work and be recognized. This is a chance to give them both.
Remember: “It’s better to give, than receive.”