The Power of Why in Delegation

The art AND skill of DELEGATION is essential in your personal leadership tool kit.  Many struggle with it, yet when it is fully used it is a powerful tool.

3 Benefits of Delegation

  1. Enable your people to more effectively complete the assignments you give them.
  2. Provide them with opportunities to help them grow and develop.
  3. Give you more time to do the things you need to do.

Delegated tasks are too often muddied with mistrust, doubts, and uncertainty. The result may be an unintended fumble.  You can’t afford that.

How Are Your Delegation Skills?

Put yourself in the shoes of your employees and ask: “What is it like to be on the receiving end of a delegated assignment from me?” The answer may open your eyes to sharpen your delegation skills.

Ineffective delegation may send the message that you don’t trust your people.  Perhaps one of the reasons you prefer to do the job yourself, rather than give it to another, is that you have not had the desired results in the past with the delegation process.  So, let’s take a quick look at the essential steps of effective delegation.

First, decide if you should delegate a task or do it yourself.

Once you believe it should be given to others, then match the task to the right person.  It is at this point that the Seven Basics of Effective Delegation apply.

7 Steps to Effective Delegation

  1. Explain the what, and clarify the why.   (Verify understanding.)
  2. Establish agreed upon check-points and metrics.  (Share and clarify.)
  3. Make sure they have the needed preparation, resources and capabilities.  (Arm them properly for the task.)
  4. Unless the task involves an exact process, leave the HOW up to them. (Don’t tell them how you would do it.  Let them try on their own.)
  5. When they are ready to begin, get out of the way and let them do it.  (Don’t micromanage!)
  6. Be available for on-going support and clarify accountability.  (Don’t abandon them.)
  7. Evaluate at completion and engage in two-way feedback. (Recognize a job well done!)

Of all the above steps to delegation, the one I have noticed in my coaching experience that has a major impact to successful delegation—yet is often neglected–is in the first step: “clarify the why”.

Have you ever received an assignment where you were given no explanation–that left you in the dark? How did you feel? If you had been given more of the big picture what difference would it have made in your acceptance, understanding, and completion of the task?

Leadership Gem

Let me refer to a few thoughts I wrote on delegation in one of my books, 52 Leadership Gems:  As a leader, your job is to leverage your capabilities through others because you are limited in time and capacity. A primary piece of this equation is effective delegation. Much has been written and taught on this subject because it is absolutely essential in high-quality execution.

An essential phase of delegation is too often either omitted or minimized, with the final result being far from the desired outcome. This key element is making sure leaders tell their people the why when giving them a task to perform.

Learning why something is to be done gives people essential information about the nature and importance of the task. The why provides understanding of the related expectations and the big picture surrounding the request. This directly influences the support and buy-in that your people will commit toward the task’s successful completion, as well as their ability to make wise decisions in its execution.

I remember getting a call from a CEO who asked me to work with one of his top leaders.  As I started collecting data on him I found out that his people were about to mutiny because the leader hoarded information.  He was convinced that holding onto data and details gave him power and enhanced his authority.  His typical delegation style of demanding was void of any explanation.  He never gave any why to his assignments.  As you might expect, his people were disheartened and desperately hoping for a transfer to another team. He was clearly failing in his attempt at leadership.

Your organization or department is likely overloaded with assignments, projects, and targets. Improving your delegation skills is an important method of managing activities, budgets, and schedules.

Conclusion

The next time you have a critical task to be performed, carefully determine who you believe is best suited to complete it. Then, as you explain what needs to be done, share why the task is important. Express what is at stake and who will be affected. Avoid the mind trap that suggests that withholding knowledge of the why increases your own power and control. In truth, it is the opposite.

Your sharing of information will help them feel that you trust them. Consequently, they will put more meaning and emphasis into completing the delegated task because they know why it is assigned. If they understand the background, they will perform at a much higher level. Sharing the why will create a win-win for you and your people.

The next time you need to delegate, put the above basic delegation steps to use.  The people you delegate to will surprise you with what they are able to accomplish, and you will have more time to do those tasks only you can do.

Questions to Consider

  1. When you delegate a task, do you merely give them the essentials of the assignment or do you include the why?
  2. If you are asked to delegate a task that is unclear to you, do you ask your supervisor for more information–the why–so you will be able to pass it onto your people?

As a final test of your delegation skills, put yourself in the shoes of the task’s recipients. Do you think they have enough information to complete the delegated assignment effectively?  Telling the why takes time, but is well worth it.

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