10 Steps to Delegating Important Work Successfully

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Years ago, when I had a project to complete, I just took it for granted that it was up to me to do everything that was needed to make it successful. After all, who could I trust on my team more than myself? After nearly failing at a crucial project that was clearly meant for four people instead of just one, I decided to try giving up control of the work on the next project and pass what I could to other people. After several weeks of work and pulling out what little hair I had left, several things occurred to me:

1. You can’t do everything and expect to stay sane;

2. Hiring others and delegating the tasks to other members increases your productivity and efficiency exponentially;

3. Delegating work to others spreads the responsibility;

4. You can accomplish more with feedback received from others on the team.

I know what it’s like to want to do everything yourself. You have heard the expression, “If you want to do something right, you have to do it yourself.” Don’t believe it. If you want to get something done, ask other people to help you, or hire the right people to get involved.

10 steps to delegating work successfully

1. Clearly share your vision with everyone involved.

Clearly explain the goals, objectives, and expected outcomes to everyone involved in the work. I know people who share housework as a family; the chores are divided up amongst all members of the family. At the beginning of the week the family will hold a short meeting in which they discuss their goals for the week, as well as each person’s responsibilities for the week. The chairpersons—the mother or the father—delegate the work to be done.

Every morning in Japan, factory and shop workers gather together for a brief “warm-up” session before starting the workday. They discuss each other’s responsibilities and the goals for that day, followed by a short stretching session. It is important that everyone have goals and understand the important role they play in helping achieve those goals. The vision is shared by everyone, and each person involved works to bring that vision to life.

2. Keep an open line of communication.

When it comes to delegating work, have an open line of communication with your employees, staff, co-workers, or family members. Hold regular meetings to discuss pressing issues and problems; one of the keys to success for any organization is to hold regular meetings, so as to check everyone’s progress, discuss problems people are having, and some of the solutions to those problems. A lack of communication results in heavy time and money losses. If it isn’t always feasible to bring everyone together for a meeting, sending out regular email is a viable alternative.

3. Offer suggestions and feedback, and evaluate progress.

When you delegate work to another person, even if it is a professional with years of experience, they still require your advice and feedback on the progress of the work. If not, mistakes that could have been avoided will be made, and once again, the resources that you’re trying to protect are wasted. If you’re too busy to do this, find a delegate to represent you—that is, somebody who knows the work as well as you do and can track its progress and offer positive suggestions and feedback to everyone involved.

4. Make a tracking list for delegated tasks.

Always keep a list of who is doing what, what their deadlines are, and any pressing problems or concerns that people need help with. It depends on the size of the project, but if you lose track of where your work is, it will be very difficult to monitor its progress and talk to the people directly involved. Keep records of everything that has been handed out and regularly follow-up with the people performing the work. Remember, though, that your work isn’t done once you delegate tasks; rather, it is just beginning.

5. Train people [if necessary].

You might have times when work or a project delegated to people requires an upgrade in their skills and knowledge. This training might be in the form of a small presentation, a seminar, on-the-job training, or a meeting to discuss the job at hand and what is involved. The scale of the work is not important; when you delegate, you are still responsible for the final outcome.

If someone makes an error because they didn’t have proper training or lacked the information to do the job right, you are accountable. Mistakes and errors are going to happen no matter how well people are informed, but you can greatly reduce the damage through training people beforehand. Once again, communication plays a powerful role when delegating work.

Remember to show people what is expected of them, and then show them how to get the results you desire. Don’t give up on people before they show you what they’re capable of if given the chance.

6. Don’t pass the blame. Stay accountable for your work.

When things go wrong, the first instinct for some people is to find the person responsible and give them a good scolding. Unfortunately, thousands of people lose their jobs every year due to the error of the person they were reporting to. Perhaps that person didn’t have all the details, or lacked the proper skills to complete the task. In any case, the responsibility for work passed out is shared by you and the delegated individual. Passing blame to another is a lose-lose situation for both parties, and is something you want to avoid at all costs.

7. Praise good work.

Work that is worthy must be praised. I have worked for people in the past who, no matter how hard you worked, never recognized good efforts. The only time your work was acknowledged was when it was done poorly or wrongly. It doesn’t matter if the person delegated the task is getting paid for it or not. Acknowledgement of good work feels good and boosts the confidence of all those involved; it instills in people the motivation to do even better the next time. Such a simple as praising people is good for families, business, and relationships.

8. Assign work to the right person.

Before you delegate work to someone or hire an outside source, the first thing you should do is make sure that person or company is right for the job. The responsibility for finding the right people is yours, and making a mistake such as passing the work on to someone who doesn’t have the proper skills could cost you a lot of money and valuable time. For example, I wouldn’t ask somebody to fix my car’s engine if they couldn’t identify a spark plug. Always assign work to the most capable person and provide them with as much detail as possible.

9. Don’t overload.

Don’t overload any one person with more than they can handle. This is a terrible waste of resources, because if you value that person as an effective resource and a key delegate, loading them up with too much work causes them stress, and the work won’t be done properly. People that are overworked will work faster to get rid of the things on their to-do list, but the work will be sloppy and not as good as it could’ve been had they had only one task to accomplish.

10. Be professional.

I have worked with many people and the experiences I cherish the most are those when employees were treated as part of the business. Praise and encouragement were offered, feedback was given, and training provided for those areas in which I was weak. This was a professional way to keep morale high and encourage people to do the best they could.

I have worked in other professions that treated people just the opposite. Workers were considered expendable and verbally mistreated and very little encouragement was provided with regard to the quality of work done. This is unprofessional and creates a negative environment. If you’re in charge of delegating work or are the one receiving responsibility, remember that a professional attitude is something that people will always remember you for.

It will also keep the good people in your company, and when you have enough good people working with or for you, the opportunities to build and create something new are increased tenfold. Treat people with respect and admiration. Trust them to do the tasks you clearly define. These are the keys to maintaining a successful career, family environment, or business.

Take Away Action Steps:

1. Take a look at the workload you have and decide what can be done by you, and what could be passed on to other people. Even the smallest of tasks given to someone else can save you hours of work.

2. When a project or job works out, praise the people involved and keep them in the loop for the next project you have. This is especially true of online entrepreneurs. It takes time and effort to find the right people so when you do, focus on “hiring permanently”. This will build your brand much faster and ensure that you do it the right way with the right people.

About Scott Allan

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