How to Delegate to Get Things Done – Clare Haynes

How often might a manager fire off instructions for something urgent or exciting, leaving a trail of unanswered questions or incomplete instructions?

What about those asking a favour or seeking information?

Isn’t the onus on the delegator to clarify what’s required?

To get off the blocks, what should be the starter’s orders for delegators? It’s the fired gun or “On your marks, get set, Go!..” that sets racers running, clearly heading for the finish line.

Yet when it comes to giving direction, plenty hijack the chances of accurate task completion in the unclear way that they ask and tell. We may find instructions rambling, unclear or otherwise frustrating.

I’m impatient: I like the tale, detail, direction and logic – but I want the big picture too. It sets out the scope and answers the “Why?” Mostly I want the outcome upfront. Without this I have a mental itch, pestering “ What’s at the finish line?” and ultimately asking “Where to?”

With this head-scratching I might miss some instruction, if my attention is bouncing into the bowels of the exercise, before the boundaries are stated. As well as the purpose, I need to know the point of “Mission Complete”. But maybe that’s just me.

I realised this simple rule when delegating recently:

The team member executing the project needed a decision made and direction for the next stage. I advocate talking over playing email ping-pong, to cover more ground and save time; but first it required logical instructions by email for crystal clarity.

Not complex but detailed, it took time to re-familiarise with the tasks; wanting to ensure simple but complete direction.

At the end, in a single line, I summed up “So let’s push to 100 and track the impact.” Just then it hit me: If I said this, at the start, then it would state my decision and frame the conversation first!

The receiver – and executor of the task – could then grasp the general intention immediately.

It “sounded” so much better!

So what’s the rule?

To Start at the Finish!

My start hadn’t indicated the end result clearly enough. It needed that pertinent point that would most simply state the scenario and “Mission Complete.”

By briefly stating at the very start – without preamble – exactly my decision, in under ten words, I “announced” what needed to happen.

Adding a concise overall context ensures commitment to the correct interpretation of the task. Interpretation being the operative word!

Good delegation leaves little room for misinterpretation, saving stress, effort and time. It’s a small effort to ensure greater understanding and execution from the start, quite literally.

So, why can’t those who delegate just summarise at the start? Some might, naturally… your experience, how many actually do?

Delegation isn’t just from the boss down but from those asking for data, contributions and opinions. We all might issue instruction  – without considering it delegation.

We know what we’d want from a task, if we were doing it, with our knowledge, context and competency. But, as we’re all different, others won’t attempt – or see it – quite how we do. Why not eliminate risk and counter confusion?

What about when it’s in spoken word or in writing?

Maybe because we can see written words, perhaps it’s easier – by email or in writing –  than delegating via speaking? So to ensure we avoid confusing others when delegating verbally, perhaps an orderly 5-point plan such as this can help:

1. Outcome – The end result

2. The general Route

3. The intricacies or logical Direction

And then back to the beginning, confirming the..

4. End point –  once more. And..

5. Repeat.

In that O.R.D.E.R!

The art of delegation is one of the hardest skills to master in management.

So, to make delegation – and other direction-giving and communication – more digestible, we need the end at the beginning. Whether speaking or writing – especially when emailing – we need to check the end. Can we picture the finish from the start? If so, there’s probably more chance of gusto at “On your marks, get set, Go..!”

Follow Clare on Twitter @WildfireSpark or check out her blog by simply clicking here

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