5 Ways to Improve Your Delegation Skills

Most executives have far more to do that they can ever accomplish.  If you’re typical, you have 300 hours’ worth of projects you have no way to get to.

So, the important jobs that you need to be doing don’t get done.  Often, you spend your time doing the jobs you dislike doing most because they’re essential; they must be done, and you’re the only one who can currently do them.

The way out of this doom loop is to improve your delegation skills.  Here are some simple ways to begin:

5 ways to improve your delegation skills

  1. Don’t set people up to fail
  2. Choose the right person for the task
  3. Ask if they understand what you just told them
  4. Trust and verify, don’t micromanage
  5. Set up regular meeting times to debrief and coach

Skill #1: Don’t set people up to fail

Have you ever felt ‘set up to fail?’  This happens when you’re unprepared for the job.  You don’t have the training, the coaching, or the experience that you need in order to get it done right.

To avoid the ‘set-up-to-fail’ syndrome, use the simple 3-step delegation process.  It’s easy and it works every time.  The three steps are:

  1. Let them watch you do the task: the person you are delegating to observes you completing the task. You explain what you’re doing and why.  They have an opportunity to ask questions.
  2. Do the task together: step two helps the person feel prepared. They’re not being set up to fail, but set up to thrive!  With you beside them, they feel the comfort of a learning environment.  They can be hands-on without the ultimate responsibility of doing everything right.
  3. Watch them do the task: Step three allows the person to do the task by themselves, but with you watching to make sure they get it right. Both parties have the option to ask questions of the other, enhancing communication.  You have the comfort of knowing whether or not the person ‘gets it.’

Skill #2: Choose the right person for the task

If you’re efforts at delegation have failed in the past, ask yourself if you actually chose the right person for the job.  Is this something they have natural ability to do?  If the job involves detail, ask if they’re a detail-oriented person.  If the job involves talking with people, ask yourself (and them) if they have people skills.

A simple way to do this is to ask what tasks give the person energy.  This is a better question than asking what they’re good at.  All of us are good at things that drain us.  But things that make you feel strong and energized are natural areas of talent that can be developed into skills.

Make sure you choose a person who is ‘cut of the right cloth’ and shows the aptitude to be good at the job, given the right training.

Skill #3: Ask if they understand what you just told them

Here’s a simple, and key point. When you’ve delegated a job and explained it and had them watch you do the job and you’ve watched them do the job, don’t assume that they understand what you mean exactly.

Simply ask them, “What parts of what I’ve told you to do, do you not fully understand?”  Or again, “Are there any parts of what we’ve discussed that aren’t perfectly clear to you?”

If there are, thank them for bringing it up.  Make it a safe place for them to ask questions.

Often managers show exasperation at employees who ‘don’t get it.’  But their exasperation turns to anger when it’s actually done wrong.  So skip all the anger, and answer their questions clearly, honestly, and calmly.  You’ll thank yourself for it, and things will get done much more quickly and effectively too.

Skill #4: Trust and verify, don’t micromanage

Trust the person to do the job well, for sure.  But don’t just assume.  Verify from time to time that they’re doing the job the way you need it to be done.  Spot checks are a good idea, just to make sure.

Don’t micromanage though.  Micromanaging happens when you inspect every detail and overrule the person’s decisions.  Micromanaging kills the delegation process and ensures that you will do it all, forever.

Skill #5: Set up regular meeting times to debrief and coach

Finally, you need a feedback loop so you can talk about how things are going, what they could be doing better, and how you could be doing better as their coach.

You can ask if they all the tools they need to do the job correctly.  You can ask if they need training or coaching.  You can ask if they are confronting any obstacles that seem like impossible roadblocks.  Once you have the answer, provide coaching and watch your new person grow in self-confidence and productivity.

Make the feedback time a regular meeting on your calendar.  It’s much faster to coach someone else to do a job than to do it all yourself.  And that is the point of improving your delegation skills!

In summary:

No leader can accomplish everything on their task list.  As a result, they must improve their delegation skills if they are to prosper.

Here are five simple ways to improve your delegation skills:

  1. Don’t set people up to fail
  2. Choose the right person for the task
  3. Ask if they understand what you just told them
  4. Trust and verify, don’t micromanage
  5. Set up regular meeting times to debrief and coach

Additional resources

Thanks for reading this article on how you can improve your delegation skills.  Below are additional resources from Professional Leadership Institute, the global provider of online human resources and leadership tools:

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