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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.
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?”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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