Improve your Delegation Skills

How to build trust, initiative, responsibility and ownership

Many people refuse to delegate to others because they feel it takes too much time and effort and they could do the job better themselves. But effectively delegating to others is perhaps the single most powerful “high leverage” activity there is. High leverage, in this case, is all about spending your time on activities that directly relate to achieving your personal & business goals.

Transferring responsibility to other skilled and higher trained people enables you to give your energies to other high-leverage activities to which you are best suited.

Delegation means growth, both for the individuals and for your business. Most Small Business Owners who have watched their business grow and develop in the initial stages find it difficult to “let go”, but most choose delegation after they realise they do can’t do it all by themselves any longer.

Stewardship delegation focuses on results instead of methods. It gives people a choice of methods and makes them responsible for the results. It takes more time and patience in the beginning, but it will save a lot of time in the long run.

Stewardship delegation involves a clear, up-front mutual understanding and commitment regarding expectations in five areas:

1. Desired Results

Create a clear, mutual understanding of what needs to be accomplished, focusing on what, not how. Focus on the results, not the methods. Spend time. Be patient. Visualise the desired result. Have the person see it, describe it, get them to feel it. Make a quality statement of what the results will look like and by when they will be accomplished.

2. Guidelines

  • Identify the parameters within the staff member should operate;
  • Keep them as few as possible;
  • Include restrictions so that they don’t violate traditional practice and values;
  • Identify the failure paths so they don’t reinvent the wheel;
  • Let people learn from your mistakes, so everyone saves time;
  • Keep the responsibility for results with them – to do whatever is necessary within the guidelines.

3. Resources

Identify what resources are available to them. Who will support them? What are the human, financial, technical or organisational resources that are available to them?

4. Accountability

Set up the standards of performance that will be used in evaluating the results and the specific times when reporting and evaluation will take place.

5. Consequences

Specify what will happen, both good and bad, as a result of the evaluation. This would include: financial rewards, promotion, job assignments, responsibility; and effect of non performance, dismissal etc

Trusting others to do the job and the Five Levels of Initiative

One of the reasons why people find it difficult to delegate fully, is they are afraid the job won’t get done to their satisfaction. The key here is to identify the level of initiative the person is able to be entrusted with before deciding how to delegate.

Also, in any job, there may be areas that are absolutely critical to the success of the project or task that require a lot of experience. Parameters can be agreed upon to ensure that a lower level of initiative is required (ie 2,3 or 4).

There are five levels of initiative to consider.

1. Wait till told

This is the lowest level of delegation. This is the “Gofer” situation which might involve a new employee with very little experience. They typically need constant supervision to learn the ropes.

2. Ask  before you do anything

As the employee becomes familiar with their job, they begin to take initiative. However, they still need affirmation on what they can do, but not how.

3. Recommend

Employees are able to assess the situation to provide recommendations in order to get the job done. Confidence grows in they ability to handle the task appropriately and you can give them more freedom in developing their own ideas as to how to achieve the desired results.

4. Do It – report back immediately

If it is not critical that actions be approved before hand then ratifying the decision will ensure that corrective action can be taken soon after the event.

5. Do It –  report routinely

This is the highest level of delegation where employees are given plenty of scope and freedom to decide how to achieve the desired results. Typically leaders of teams are at this position of responsibility and have demonstrated their ability to make good decisions.

~Trust ~ 

Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people. But it takes time and patience and necessarily involves training and developing people so that their competency can rise to that level of trust. 

The key is to develop the individual by entrusting them with higher and higher levels of initiative when they are ready to do so.

Next Steps:

Good Reading: If you would like to find out more about how to communicate effectively with your employees and others, we recommend Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

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