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Delegate for Success

If there were a single zero-cost initiative, one that you could implement immediately, that would motivate your people, improve team morale, grow team skills appreciably, increase productivity and profit, reduce your stress level and free up your time, would you go for it?

There is such an initiative and, by the time you have finished reading this strategy, you will have a plan in place to implement it for yourself.

The secret is delegation.

Take out a pen and paper and follow these simple steps to quickly draw up a delegation plan, one that will allow you to maintain effective control of all your tasks while still delegating effectively.

Look at What You Can Delegate
Recurring or routine tasks are the obvious candidates for delegation. Draw up a list of all tasks you undertake on a regular basis. List them under three columns – Task Name, Time to Complete, and Special Skills. Mentally work through your week, hour by hour, day by day. If you need some reminders, pull out your planner or To Do lists and look for clues there. Or make a commitment to track yourself during the next week and record the tasks you undertake.

Then, review that list for suitability to delegation. Are there any tasks you used to do when you were in a more junior position? (If so, why isn't someone more junior doing them now?) Which of these tasks could be undertaken by absolutely anyone? Are there any tasks on the list that require special skills that are in greater abundance in your team than in you? All of these tasks are prospects for delegation. Now, draw a line through anything that is not a suitable candidate for delegation. Besides the obvious, these include personal tasks, (such as collecting your dry-cleaning), HR issues such as reviews or disciplinary matters, or management of crises that you are paid to handle. What's left are tasks that you can delegate.

Plan Your Delegation
Draw up a brief description of each delegatable task. List why you undertake it, how you and others have done it in the past, when it must begin, when it must be complete, and what the outcome must be upon successful completion. This last point is key – you must have clear goals for the task, goals that are defined in an absolutely unambiguous manner that will make them easily communicable. What specific results must the delegate achieve in completing the task? You know you have a successful task description if a stranger could pick up your description and understand what is required.

Decide Whom to Delegate to
You can delegate to utilize an existing team member's skills more effectively, or in order to develop new skills in a team member. Either match an individual's proven skills to the requirements of the task or match in terms of the particular skill growth that you want to see in any given team members.

The first thing your delegation candidates will ask (themselves) is "What's in it for me?" Identify why the task is important and how it contributes to the overall success of the group. People need to feel that what you ask them to do is truly meaningful. Then, determine what growth or development they will personally achieve from developing competence in completing this new task.

Well done! You now have a delegation plan that you can begin to implement immediately. To put it in motion, you will need to do the following:

Delegate Each Task
Don't do this in two minutes over coffee, or as you pass in the corridor. Accord the exercise the time necessary to explain the what, how, where, when and why of the task; what's in it for the team member who will take on the task; and how and when you will review progress and completion. Take time to sell the task and you'll motivate these individuals to successful completion. Demonstrate your confidence in the selected candidates, reassuring them that you will be there to provide support should the need arise. If the task is particularly challenging, provide the security of more frequent reviews, with clearly agreed-upon milestones of the progress expected. This is essential to providing you with confidence that you still have control of tasks you have delegated.

Pass Ownership
Accountability without power is de-motivating. Pass the new delegate the necessary authority to complete all aspects of the new task without coming back to you. Be clear, however, in setting the upper and lower limits of this authority in a manner that leaves no room for misunderstandings.

Review the Delegation
When you delegate a task, you agree to specific review points. Be sure to undertake these reviews, providing advice and course correction as required. If there are problems, identify the root causes. Is it lack of confidence, lack of skills, or something else? Work with the delegate to see how you can jointly address the difficulty. Encourage the delegate to come to you not just with difficulties, but also with his or her own ideas on how to overcome them. Don't be tempted to review progress more regularly than you agreed to, or to encourage "reverse delegation," where the delegate is at your desk every five minutes asking what to do next.

Celebrate Success
When a delegated task is completed successfully, be sure to recognize the delegate's achievement. Provide him or her with feedback and be sure that the success is known within the group.

Do it Again
Every so often, go back and review all of the tasks you're undertaking with a view to passing on as many of those tasks as you can. If you are paid to manage, then manage – don't do.

You don't have to spend money to get greater productivity and profitability, or to improve motivation, reduce your stress level and free up your time. You just have to delegate. Pass it on.

* From the book 40 Strategies For Winning In Business by Bud Haney and Jim Sirbasku. © S&H Publishing Co., 5205 Lake Shore Drive, Waco, Texas 76710-1732.

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