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Delegation – 8 Tips To Help You Hand Off Projects And Tasks Effectively
By Thomas Haizlip

Effective Delegation is a Process not an Event

It is the result of taking clear steps to explain the task being delegated, the expected outcome, the authority that is being given to accomplish the task, and the timeline expected for project completion. Delegation should also include built in “check in” points to assure that all players are on the same page. Take time to provide encouragement and use mistakes as teaching moments to develop top performers. Finally, always take time to “debrief” after a task or project has been completed to discuss not only the outcome, but also where work styles were in sync and where there were problems.

The following 8 tips are a great guideline to use when you have to delegate tasks and responsibilities to others to assure that there is alignment between your expectations and their behavior. Good delegation is about good communication as much as it is about task competency.

1. Start with The End in Mind

When it comes to delegation this is the 1st habit of successful delegation. “Here is exactly what I expect to be done when this task is finished.” Be sure to define the objectives, priorities, and deadlines needed for the task to be completed successfully. Remember, always use concrete terms. If this task is completed correctly it will look like this and we will be able to measure your success by these methods. Never use vague terms like, “We know you’re finished when people stop complaining.”

2. Define a Timetable

For example, “I need this project completed within two months from today.” If you do not want a big surprise at the end of a project gone wrong, then make sure you establish “check in” times to assure that things are getting done right. For example, “Let’s get together each Friday at 3 pm for 20 minutes to see how things are going.” This is not micromanaging – it’s managing.

3. Set Clear Authority Limits

Do you want your employee to just gather information and bring it back to you to make the final decision or do you want them to use their own judgment and make the final choice? This is where most delegated tasks go wrong. When people assume they have authority that was never granted to them it causes serious problems with their coworkers and other managers. Be clear about what level of authority they have and even more clear about what level of authority that they do not have.

4. Inform Others That You Have Delegated The Task

Let everyone involved with the task know to whom it has been delegated. Send a a group e-mail notifying others that as of today, “Sally Jones” will be taking on responsibility for tracking all billable hours for Project Alpha. If you are on the team for Project Alpha, please submit all your billable hours to Sally. If you have any questions, please check with Sally first and then feel free to follow up with me if you still have any concerns.

5. Be Available For Coaching

Do not check in constantly with someone once you delegate a task, but be sure to let them know you are always available if they have questions or need some help.Be sure to never act bothered or belittle even simple questions. Let them know it is always better to ask and be sure, and acknowledge that you think it shows maturity not insecurity on their part. It’s fine to set limits with this if you have someone checking in too often. Just tell them, “Sally” instead of calling me so many times, I think it would be better to call me before lunch and at 4:30 p.m. each day so I can help with any questions you have.

6. Provide Active Support and Encouragement

Taking on new roles and responsibilities is tough for anyone. Their is always a learning curve where they feel like they are not performing at a level that they think they should be performing. Remind them that you do not expect perfection and they should not think they are going to be as efficient as someone who has been doing the task for much longer. Praise and recognize small successful steps toward task completion to help the person gain confidence and competence.

7. Mistakes are Normal When People are Learning New Tasks

Every talented person makes mistakes, especially when learning new skills. Use these mistakes as teaching moments. Do not just tell someone what they did wrong. Ask them to explain how they arrived at their decision so you can better understand their thinking process. Do not be judgmental, but show a real interest in understanding how someone reached a wrong conclusion. It’s fine to share a personal story of when you made a mistake yourself and tell them the important thing is that the mistake gets surfaced so you can help them learn how to improve their decision making skills, and assure that they are following all necessary practices and policies.

8.Provide Performance Feed Back When Once the Task is Completed

Do not just say, “Great job.” Sit down together and take enough time to discuss the entire process. Before you have this discussion, collect feedback from coworkers and other managers about how well they think the task was executed. Then ask if you were clear about your expectations and timetable? Ask what went right and what went wrong? Ask them to rate how well they think they did and what they might do differently the next time to perform better? Be willing to receive feedback as well as giving it. Ask, what would you recommend that I do differently the next time I need to delegate a task to make the process more effective? Be sure that you describe where you think they performed well and where there is room for improvement. Finally send out an e-mail or memo to all team members about how well “Sally” did on executing the delegated task and ask them to congratulate her as well. Positive reinforcement for a job well done is the best way to ensure maximum performance and the shortest learning curve.

Thomas Haizlip is an executive coach who works with college educated, mid and senior level managers. He specializes in three types of clients: 1.High Potential- clients that need fast track development, 2.Valuable, But Risking Derailment – clients who are competent, but are not performing well now because of poor people skills, 3.Diamonds in the Rough- clients who are technically competent but are not advancing because of a lack of emotional intelligence and limited leadership competencies. Tom was a clinical psychologist for 16 years before he made the leap from couch to corporation. He helps his clients master the hard work of becoming a soft skills experts. Tom partners with clients to develop behaviors and skills that result in increased and sustained job performance and career advancement. Tom works with individuals and teams to improve emotional intelligence, build trust, engage in honest conflict, commit to goals, hold each other accountable, and produce results. To learn more, please visit

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