Delegation involves more than just moving a task off your plate and onto someone else’s. As well, writes Robert W. Bly in Make Every Second Count, you need to manage the person you’ve delegated to in order to ensure that she gets the task done correctly and efficiently.
Bly, a direct marketing copywriter who has written more than 75 business books, suggests the following ways to achieve this:
1.Demand solutions, not problems: Bly recounts a time when an assistant started to explain at length why he couldn’t open files emailed by a client and possible ways to solve the problem. He interrupted and said, “I trust you. I just want the files. Don’t tell me the details; I don’t care.” If you can get your people to focus on your ends, they’ll find the means.
2.Ask them how they’d handle it if you weren’t around to help: If an employee bothers you with questions or problems that you feel she can answer on her own, ask her, “If I were dead, what would you do?” Nine times out of 10, she’ll figure it out on her own.
3.Accept that they won’t carry out the task perfectly the first time: Most workers are nervous about making mistakes executing something they know you could do flawlessly. Your job is to teach them how to get the task done, not to nitpick or show them how dumb they are compared to you. So you need to reassure them that they won’t be punished for their mistakes and that you understand that the best way to learn is through experience, which entails making errors.
4.Don’t throw them in the deep end: The previous point doesn’t mean you should blithely let someone foul up something important. Give your people the chance to try new skills or tasks without a supervisor looking over their shoulders—but at first only on smaller, less crucial projects.
5.Pick your times to delegate: Any manager who thinks her people will diligently attend to tasks handed to them at 3 p.m. on the Friday before a long weekend is fooling herself. Assign involved tasks to employees when they are most likely to produce results. Research shows that Tuesday is the best day to do so, because employees are at their most productive then, and Friday is the worst.