Getting Delegation Back on Track

Getting Delegation Back on Track

Mar 15, 2018

Getting Delegation Back on Track

Even experienced managers may find it hard to give an important responsibility to someone else, knowing they may not fully understand howto deliver what is needed, or with the quality and efficiency desired. What happens if an employee takes too long to complete something you consider simple or self-explanatory? Some managers take back the work and do themselves. Others criticize mistakes and missed deadlines in hopes that the employee will do it better next time, or hint at their dissatisfaction. What do you do?

When delegation fails or just isn’t going as smoothly as you’d like, it’s time to re-calibrate with your employee. A key here is to assume positive intent. This means you enter the conversation knowing that, overall, staff want to do a good job and feel badly when they fail or disappoint their supervisor. Chances are that employees are not purposefully ignoring your instructions, slacking off, or trying to frustrate you. It’s also important to approach the situation with a mindset of partnership, with the understanding that both you and the employee can work together to find a solution to the problem.
“When delegation fails or just isn’t going as smoothly as you’d like, it’s time to re-calibrate with your employee.”
Ask yourself:

  • “Is there a gap between what I think they should do, and what they think they should do?”  
  • “What on-the-job work could I give them to help them practice for this responsibility, so that they can learn by doing?”
  • “Does this work align with my employee’s strengths and/or interests, or is another employee better suited to this responsibility?”
  • “What do I need to do differently to set them up for success?”
  • “Who or what else could help them accomplish this work so that I am likely to feel comfortable with the outcome?
  • “What parts of this work might be especially confusing for a beginner? Can I use my experience to help clarify anything?”

What to do instead of taking the responsibility back:

  • Explain the gap. “To feel comfortable giving this responsibility to you, here’s what I need to see, and why. Let’s take a look at what you’ve been doing and see where we might make changes.”
  • Express confidence in your employee. Your employee might feel stressed taking on a new responsibility, especially when they know it’s important to you. They might not believe they can handle the responsibility properly. Let them know you believe in them and are available to help them succeed.
  • Develop next actions. To learn whether the employee understands what is being asked of them, ask “What next steps will you take to move this forward?’  This gives the employee a chance to demonstrate their level of understanding of the work.
  • Ask them what support or information they need, and listen. What will help them feel willing to step outside their comfort zone?  What obstacles are they experiencing? How can you help remove the barriers to progress?
  • Model the behavior you want and help them learn to think like you. Tell them, “Here’s my approach, if I were doing this work…” Or review some recent work with them, letting them see your thought process and what you would have done differently.

It takes time and practice to master a new responsibility. But if you clarify expectations up front, put systems in place to help your staff succeed, and provide support along the way, you’ll soon reap the rewards of a stronger, more capable team and more time for you to focus on more strategic initiatives. When done well, delegation is a win-win!

Have you ever had to intervene and get a delegated responsibility back on track? What was your strategy?