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American Management Association Certification Programs

This Month's Training Tip: Delegating for Business Success

Principles Of Successful Delegating
When you construct a building, whether it's a simple one-story ranch-style home or a thirty-story office tower, you want to be sure that it has a solid foundation, one that will ensure the structure can stand up even to extreme conditions. That kind of solid foundation is important to delegating as well. Whether you are delegating a small portion of a larger project or responsibility for a complex job, there are certain principles that provide the foundation necessary for success.

These principles are discussed below.

  • Delegate complete jobs. Every job and project is made up of a variety of tasks. Be careful not to simply hand off a series of tasks. To learn, grow, and achieve a sense of satisfaction, people need to work on something from start to finish. The job might be a small portion of a larger project, but it should still be a complete job.
  • Make your expectations clear. Vague expectations are likely to achieve unsatisfactory results. People can only accomplish an objective when they know what the objective is. Clearly convey exactly what your expectations are and what will satisfy you when the job is completed.
  • Explain how the job fits into the bigger picture. People take their work more seriously when they understand its importance. Make sure the other person knows why the job needs to be done and how it will help your team, department, and organization achieve its goals.
  • Delegate responsibility and authority. A job is not delegated unless the other person is responsible for accomplishing it and has the necessary authority to achieve the objectives. Otherwise, it's an assignment. People need to know that they will be held accountable for the results. They also need to know that within clearly expressed limits they can and should do whatever is necessary to get the job done.
  • Delegate objectives and results, not processes and procedures. What's important is achieving the desired results, not how the job is done. It rarely matters whether people do the work the way you would do it or find their own ways of working, as long as the objectives are achieved. That doesn't mean you can't make suggestions, as long as the other person knows that they are suggestions.
  • Make sure people have what they need. For the delegating process to succeed, it is crucial that the person doing the work has the necessary resources. Those resources include, at a minimum, time and information. They might also include training, money, equipment, assistants, and access to others within and outside the organization.
  • If necessary, prepare the way. When delegating involves going to others for information, resources, or assistance, let those people know that the person you are delegating to will be contacting them and has your authority to ask for what he or she needs.
  • Expect people to come up with the solutions to problems. Solving problems is part of the responsibility of handling a job. Resist the temptation to step in with solutions or to take the job back when it is not going well. Offer your support, assistance, and suggestions, but insist that people come up with their own solutions. People learn more, and become more valuable to you and the organization, when they find their own way. Help them learn to do it on their own.
  • Give people as much as they can handle. For some people, it's important to delegate gradually, beginning with smaller projects and building up to work that entails more independence and responsibility. That way, you can build trust and confidence. But just as stretching your muscles before you exercise helps you achieve more and avoid injury, stretching their abilities helps people develop their skills. Give them as much responsibility-or a little more-than they can handle, while being careful not to overwhelm them with more than they can realistically accomplish.
  • Reach agreement on key issues before the work begins. Those issues include deadlines, checkpoints, limits on authority, the form in which progress will be reported and monitored, how progress and results will be evaluated, and what will happen if the project gets seriously off track. It's not a bad idea to put the key agreements in writing.
  • Find the balance between micromanaging and supporting. People who delegate successfully find ways to monitor progress and provide necessary support without interfering with the other person's working process.
  • Keep an open mind. The people to whom you delegate jobs might have very different working styles and very different ideas than your own. Respect those differences. In fact, they might come up with new, better ways of doing things.
  • Evaluate and reevaluate the way you delegate. After every project, ask the person to whom you delegated the job what worked and what didn't, focusing on what you might do differently to improve your delegating skills.

Learn more about Delegating for Business Success

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