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    How to Delegate: ‘Let It Go’ with These Six Steps

    Question

    “I’ve been trying to do everything myself for long enough, and I’ve finally accepted that I need to learn to delegate certain tasks. How can I make sure the person does a good job?” – Keith from Milford, CT

    Answer

    As the popular Frozen song goes, sometimes we need to “let it go” – particularly when trying to do everything is jeopardizing our productivity and sanity levels. Enlisting the help of a coworker or direct report doesn’t mean, however, that you won’t still be involved – your involvement just looks a little different.

    Here are six steps to keep in mind when delegating any task:

    1.      Choose the right person for the task. Remember, the right person doesn’t always mean the least busy person. Think about the task you want accomplished and select the individual whose professional capabilities and personal characteristics are the best match.

    2.       Clearly define expectations. It’s not enough to tell someone what you want them to do; you need to help them understand what success looks like. Consider the task “make information packets for an open house” – this directive alone doesn’t tell a person what specific materials to include in the packet, where to go to gather this information, how many packets to create, or whether the packet should be stapled or enclosed in a folder. Be as specific as possible up front.

    3.      …But let them choose the approach.  Just because you would go about a task a specific way doesn’t mean it’s the only path to success. Giving the person working for you some freedom in how they accomplish a task is more likely to result in success than forcing them to follow an approach that feels unnatural to them.

    4.      Set them up for success. Make sure they have everything – including both information and actual, physical resources – they need to complete the work you’re asking them to do for you. Guarantee they know where to go for help if they get stuck or need additional items to finish the job.

    5.  Give feedback. The end of the project shouldn’t be the only time someone receives feedback. Set up a few check-in points along the way so the individual has an opportunity to share their work and ask questions. Check-ins also allow you to course-correct early if the individual has taken a wrong turn.

    6.  Say thank you. Once the task is complete, don’t forget to say thank you! If the person isn’t your direct report, consider also letting their supervisor know what a great help they were to you. Some companies have opportunities during all-staff meetings for acknowledgements; a little public recognition goes a long way!

    Blog readers, what other strategies have you found helpful when it comes to delegating tasks? Share your tips and lessons learned in the comments below! 

    Jenni B. Baker
    Jenni B. Baker was a member of Goodwill Industries International’s digital team from 2009-2016. In her role, she supported content strategy and development for Goodwill’s digital properties, including Goodwill’s public blog and email newsletters.
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