Delegation made easy

Afraid to delegate? Just answer these three questions to get started.

January 5, 2018 - Author: Jennifer Weichel, Jennifer Weichel, Michigan State University Extension

Many people are afraid to delegate and have a laundry list of reasons why it just will not work for them or their situation. However, getting started on the road to delegation starts with these three easy questions:

  • What needs to be done?
  • Who is qualified to do it?
  • How much oversight will it require?

To answer the first question, use the same approach you would with any project and list everything out, missing no steps. This will allow you to see the big picture and the reality of the work.

The second question, who is qualified to do it, is by far the hardest question. You may think it is only you but you are most likely wrong. Someone did it before you and someone will do it after you. Think bigger and broader: who else can do this work? They may or may not be currently employed by you and you will want to match the person using these key elements: skills, experience with similar tasks, ability to learn, and if necessary, their job description or ability to change their job description.

Lastly, ask “What will your involvement be in terms of oversight?” This will vary depending on the person you find to assign the work to and their level of experience. Typically, the more experience a person has with that type of task, the less involvement you will need. Conversely, the less experience the person has, the more involved you will need to be.

It is important to remember that the initial investment of training can be well worth the time, expense and effort involved in getting someone trained. Although two of you may be working on the same project for four hours this time, only one of you will be needed next time, if you have effectively trained them. This will free up your time to allow you to work on other projects in the future and make them a more valuable asset.

When delegating work to someone with or without experience, it is important to decide the following to avoid confusion and frustration: Does the end result matter, does only the process matter, or both? It is important that you both have agreement on this so no one is upset or disappointed during the project. There are circumstances when each of these scenarios may be appropriate and knowing upfront which is correct for the project is essential to success.

You should also decide when you will check in with each other. Setting these status report meetings up in advance allows everyone to feel prepared and have accurate information ready for the check-in. This is also a great way to keep the project on track and be sure that your vision for the project is taking shape.

When effectively used, delegation should not cause additional stress but relieve some of the pressures associated with our busy schedules and demands and ultimately, maximize our efficiency. Michigan State University Extension encourages you to use these simple questions and techniques to start you off on your journey to delegation. 

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