Effective Leaders  – Effective Delegation

By Talia Eisen, Vice President


Organizations today have more demands to stay competitive than ever before, with many people having to work harder with less to make more happen at a faster pace. The impact on leaders and personnel alike is that they have more work to get done than ever before. Positions are harder to fill due to the job market being robust, so many people end up responsible for the work of two or three, rather than the one position for which they were originally engaged. Non-exempt leaders end up working long hours, taking work home, and utilizing weekends to stay caught up. This takes a heavy toll on health, families and general well-being. It quickly takes a toll on a leader’s effectiveness as well. They simply cannot keep up that kind of pace.

In the end, they must learn to delegate effectively to manage their workload. This can be very hard for leaders when they know their workforce is already working past their maximum too. What I have found over and over is that very few people know how to delegate. And for many leaders, they say the time it takes to explain what is needed and offload the work to someone is not commensurate with the results they get from their staff. Many will say, “It’s just easier if I do it myself….” But this is a slippery slope at best. Learning to delegate effectively and rewardingly is key to effective business in this day and age.

What I tell leaders is that there are three steps to delegating effectively. If done well, delegation will both ease workload at the top and also develop staff capacities in a way that will provide exponential benefit to efficiency of the system.

The three components to good delegation are: 1) Stating expectations clearly 2) Defining criteria for success and 3) Establishing follow-up. While this may seem fairly simple, these are three steps I have found that almost no one does when delegating. The challenges with these three steps are they require leaders to think through what they really want from a project or task ahead of time.

Simply, the way the three steps works is as follows:

1, Stating Expectations: Tasks are too often handed off to someone with nearly no explanation. I have often heard from front line staff things such as, “I wasn’t sure if my boss wanted me to do that or if she was going to…” or “I didn’t know if I was supposed to handle that project or if she was just telling me about it…” Don’t expect employees to get the hint, pick up the cues or rise to some occasion they don’t know about. A leader needs to sit down with the staff member and clearly ask for their work on a task or project.

2. Defining Criteria: A critical flaw I’ve seen in many delegations is that the leader either doesn’t know what success looks like, or doesn’t take the time to share their thoughts about a successful project with the person to whom they have delegated the task. This seems like a clear setup for failure. This is the core reason many people don’t delegate: Not telling the person how to be successful reinforces their thinking that the person will do the task “wrong.” Leaders who tend to want to control more have a very hard time letting go of tasks, because of this thinking. Think of the key 2-3 elements that are needed, and let go of how they get there. That is the part you give away, not the results.

3. Establishing Follow Up The last step is communicating a plan to follow up on the work.
What sorts of check-ins are needed? I often hear from leaders, “I gave him this project and I kept having to check up on him…it was annoying.” Or “She was supposed to do that work, but never told me if it was done.” In most cases, they have not asked the employee to let them know anything. Think through your needs and get agreement from your staff member so you have a shared understanding of the process, milestones and checkpoints.

Delegating well takes a bit more planning time at the start, and has huge dividends in time as a result. The payoff is that your employees/contractors will have an increased ability to take on more tasks. They will also be learning and can become more mature in their roles, develop their problem solving and communication skills, and learn more about the work that is done there. When you begin delegating effectively, the team will succeed in the ways you defined, helping shoulder the workload with increasing efficiency and grow into more developed team member at the same time.

For more information, and to find out ways we can help you with delegation and other management and communication skills, call Medicare Compliance Solutions at 562-334-7980.

Talia Eisen is a senior level Organization Development consultant with 10 years experience coaching leaders and supporting growth in organizations.

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