The Business Journey - Effective Delegation: The Key to Business Success
On 20 July 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the moon and uttered one of the most famous phrases in history: 'One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.' But how he got there is a template for delegation.
Back at the start of the space race, Kennedy didn't say, 'I wonder if we could get to the moon?' He said 'I want to land men on the moon by the end of the decade.'
He then gave this vision to a team of people and let them run with it, acting like any managing director of a small business. Why? Because, he did not plan the rocket. Nor did he choose the astronauts. He certainly didn't hire the welders. He set the goal, delegated the task to other people, and then worked in the background to ensure they had the tools and the money to make his vision happen.
You may even be a one-man band, but you can still operate like Kennedy, getting other people, even freelances, to make your dream happen. But how do you do it successfully?
'But it never works!'
Delegating always works when the delegating itself is done well. The task will probably be done differently from the way you would do it, but as long as the outcome is to your brief, then you cannot complain. However, it is no good throwing someone in at the deep end and expecting great results. In the beginning, you may need to be in the background to inspire confidence and show people the way.
Here's how to make delegating work every time.
- Delegation does not come easily to many of us. The secrets are to choose the right person, and to create a clear definition of the ultimate goal.
- Choose the right person for the task. They must be up to the task ultimately, even if they need training and practice to begin with.
- Set clear measurable objectives. The clearer these are, the happier people are to act without supervision. Then set goals with deadlines and sort out resources or allocate a budget.
- Clarify how much responsibility you want to delegate. This will vary from task to task and even from person to person. For example, they could:
- Handle the issue alone, in their own way;
- Handle the issue under supervision until they have learned how to do it;
- Research solutions and recommend a course of action;
- Research solutions leaving you to choose a course of action.
- Focus on milestones. You don't need people to report back with every detail. Set stages when you will review progress, and then leave them to get on with it, unless they ask for help.
- Coach people to solve their own problems. So rather than leaping in with your own solutions if they get stuck, try asking instead: 'What would you do?' Many people know the answer; they just lack the confidence to pursue it.
- Ask for results not details. Do not allow people to give you impromptu reports, so set up a regular reporting system and enforce it. Even then, ask for conclusions or outlines of what they have not completed, not lists of what they've done. For example, if you outsource your bookkeeping, you will want to see a bank reconciliation once a week rather than hear them ramble on about what payments have been made in and out.
- Give realistic deadlines. These allow you to control the flow and pace of work.
- Log assignments and set interim dates for review stages.
- Accept that mistakes happen. It is up to you to foresee what could go wrong and to set the parameters within which people can act. Remember, the first time people do a task, they are learning. The second time, they are practising. Few become proficient at something before the third attempt.
- Delegation does not mean you abdicate responsibility - just that you entrust authority to a deputy. You may find that people do the job better or achieve the objective more effectively than you, albeit in a different way. Meanwhile, you have freed up your time.
Contributed by Sophie Chalmers of Better Business
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