It is all well and good to know what to delegate, but who among us has not had an assignment we delegated go horribly wrong?  Inaccurate.  Incomplete.  Late Arriving.  Or, worst of all, Undone.

I confess to being guilty of all four failings at one time or another.  For a variety of completely justifiable reasons (if one were to take my point of view for a moment) and sometimes for unjustifiable ones, I have delivered poorly on tasks delegated to me.

If I were to juxtapose the things I felt I made a promise to do vs. the things that were delegated to me, any guess which column would have more “completed” items in it?

Yep, the “I promised” column.  Deliberate delegation begins with making sure the person you are delegating to actually promises to take on and complete the task, and to return and communicate if that is not possible.

If you want to find yourself with a higher success rate in delegating tasks and projects, it is important to understand the parties and processes involved.

Who’s Who?

There are two parties involved in any Deliberate Delegation, you and the person you are asking to do the work.  Once you choose to delegate something, you turn yourself into a Customer. The person who will do the work will be the Performer, instead of you. 

A 4 Step Process

There are 4 phases to the Deliberate Delegation process:

1.       Preparation:  expectations are outlined and a request is made.

2.       Negotiation:  an agreement is reached and the project begins.

3.       Fulfillment:  the work is being done and delivered.

4.       Satisfaction:  we discover and recognize how well the work was done.

Each Phase raises questions.

Preparation Phase

The Customer asks:  Who is best for the Job?

The Performer asks:  Do I have the time and the ability?

Troubles arise when the Customer gives an assignment without waiting to see if the Performer accepts the assignment, and failing to learn on what terms that assignment can be accepted (and therefore successfully completed for both parties).

Negotiation Phase

The Customer asks:  Will what I need be accomplished on time?  Are the parameters satisfactory?

The Performer asks:  Have I asked for enough resources?  Do I continue to have the capacity?

Troubles arise when the Performer says “Yes” to the assignment before considering and communicating honestly about the answer to the “Do I have the time?” and the “Do I have the ability?” questions.

Fulfillment Phase

The Customer asks:  What is the progress?  Am I satisfied with the progress?

The Performer asks:  Can I deliver what was requested by the deadline?

Troubles arise when neither party check in with the other to see what progress is being made.

Satisfaction Phase

The Customer asks:  Am I satisfied with the work?  Was it delivered on time?

The Performer asks:  Did I accomplish what I agreed to?  Did I accomplish what was expected?

If we miss this phase, we miss twice. We miss:

1. Learning.  Learning what could go better next time, and

2. Engagement.  Forgetting to thank people for their work leaves them feeling undervalued and unappreciated.  You won’t get exceptional performance twice if you don’t acknowledge the work, and you won’t get better performance next time if you don’t stop and share what went right and what could have gone better.

The next time you have a task or project to delegate, take a moment and think through the Deliberate Delegation process.

  • What do you need done?
  • Who is best for the job?

Once you assign the task, negotiate the scope and terms of the work, and then follow up.

Be sure to check in and see how things are going.  Be curious.  Offer support.  And when the work is complete, let the person know how they did; what went right, and what could go differently next time.

Happy delegating!