How to Delegate the Right Task to the Right Person

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How to delegateSometimes talking “management” sounds like simple logic. In fact, the same subjects have been talked and written about to death. The only difference is in the creative presentation of old concepts with new jargon and new catchy phrases (e.g. “Baked into, actionable, high level view, etc.). Indeed, there are too many research papers coming out of academia covering the same ole’ management problems and basically the same tired solutions. But the reality is that organizational behavior is more complex than simple logic would propose. Politics, image and financial survival can place subtle pressure on what would be called logical and normal behavior. In fact, in today’s world, the job description can become synonymous with self-description.

“Going Postal” and HR managers wearing Kevlar vests are the extreme negative results of too much job self-identification.  People are not what they do. They are who they  are…much more complex.

One of the more problematic and important management skills is effective delegation; matching the right person to the right job. Some may say that delegation is all about the ability to trust others. But the reality is that effective delegation is a process that requires some thought and preparation.

The following are steps to help align the job with the person:

  1. Understand that picking the wrong person can mean failure for the task, the person and you as a leader.
  2. Define the requirements of the job and match those to the skills, experience and abilities of the person. It shouldn’t be sink or swim.
  3. Make sure the person clearly understands the job requirements and the expected outcome.
  4. Ask the person if they feel confident in their skills to take on the job. Then test to see if they indeed have the needed skills. If their skill levels are not as complete as they need to be, train to the expected level of competency (if feasible) or pass on the assignment. Setting people up for failure helps no one.
  5. Delegate the entire job. Develop ownership of the entire job to the delegated person.
  6. Develop measureable milestone metrics. This allows you to provide support and training if needed as well as keep the job on track.
  7. Let it be known that you expect questions and problems to arise and that you are available to assist after the delegated person has tried to solve the problem first.

If you are an effective delegator, you want people to feel they own the task and walk away with the attitude “This is my job, I own it and take responsibility for its success.”

It really becomes a matter of judgement when to step in or let learning take place. Normally, a good idea is to tell the person that they should come to you with any questions that they have after trying to solve it first. However, they should always seek counsel on judgement calls that could affect the successful outcome of the project.


Additional Reading

Effective Change Management: Communicate the How for Every Part of the Organization

Change Management Street Smarts: Interview with Jeff Cole


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