Delegating More Effectively: Controlled Delegation

I was speaking to the a president of a family business recently who said:

“When my dad retired, he just walked away. This one Monday, he didn’t show up. Again, on Tuesday, no dad. Then Wednesday, another no show. Totally unlike him. Finally, on Thursday, I called him and said, ‘So, are you coming in today?’ and he said, ‘I don’t really feel like coming in any more.’ And he never did again.”

Clearly this was not a “best practice” delegation plan. But it’s astonishing how often people hand off tasks with little warning or no instructions on how to complete them. When you delegate, and not just big responsibilities like running the whole company but smaller tasks too, you don’t just walk away and hope it will all just happen without you. Always hand off tasks through controlled delegation.

5 Steps for Controlled Delegation

1. Communicate verbally what you want done.

Be clear about the frequency of the task and the process they must follow. Example:

“Sue, I’m only going to check the daily sales stats weekly, but I want to make sure that you do it daily. What I look for are these three factors [list factors]. They allow me to follow up on the specific accounts that are weak. You may already be doing this too, but I want to reinforce that I’m not going to do it anymore so there will be no double checks. Can you take this on?”

2. Get them to restate in writing what you said.

This ensures that they understood your instruction. Revise if necessary. Example:

“Sue, today I mentioned I’m not reviewing daily stats any more. Please email a quick outline of how you will do it, how often, and what you’ll look to confirm we’re on the same page.”

3. Officially make it their duty by updating their job description.

The job description can then be used as an effective expectation setting tool for this person and others who may fill this role, and will make future conversations around expectations and performance easier.

4. Check in with tight frequency to see how it’s going.

It’s easier to establish regular check ins at the beginning of a newly delegated duty than to do so after things go awry. Not following up until poor performance shows up and then suddenly breathing down their neck doesn’t help anyone. Make adjustments as you see fit.

5. Taper off the check ins.

Controlled delegation is an important management tool. The more you use it, the more time you will gain back and be able to do the things that are really important, the things that only you can do.

Bellrock is a management consulting and change management firm where remarkable is expected. If you found this article valuable, don’t be stingy. Share!

Written By:
Tara Landes

Tara Landes is the Founder and President of Bellrock. She has spent over 20 years consulting and training in small to medium-sized enterprises. A sought-after speaker on a wide range of business topics, Tara has delivered workshops and seminars at conferences and industry associations across Canada. Tara obtained a BA (Honours) in Political Science from the University of Western Ontario (UWO) and earned an MBA from UWO's Richard Ivey School of Business.

More By This Author