Are You Good at Delegating?

Kitty J. Boitnott, PhD, NBCT

Certified Life Strategies & Stress Management Coach

Are you good at delegating? Many of us are not, and it is a skill that we would probably benefit from developing.

Life coach and author, Talane Miedaner, says that you don't have to be the boss to delegate, and I agree with her although delegating is hard of those of us who tend to be Type A personalities or have control issues. Delegating is important, however, because it falls in line with the topic of self-care that I wrote about last week. If you are going to take care of yourself, you need to build some extra time into your day for yourself. Delegating tasks that others can be one way to make sure you have a little extra time to spend on what you need to do for yourself whether it is working out or getting some much needed sleep.

Talane suggests that there are three secrets to delegating well. The first secret is to take the time fully to train the person to whom you are delegating the job. This point is very important. The real key is to make sure you don't show them once and then leave them to their own devices, only for you to be disappointed with their performance later. It is necessary that you take the time to train the individual in every aspect of the job.

Years ago, I was blessed to have a number of library clerks assigned to me when I was the librarian for my mid-size to large school libraries. When I was training new library clerks or mom volunteers, I would take time to show them or teach them every aspect of the duty that I expected them to fulfill, and then I would hang around and watch to make sure they understood. In teacher lexicon, it is called, "checking for understanding." It is one thing to hear and "understand" something; it is a totally different thing to hear, understand, and DO something when it is new and unfamiliar.

Think back to when you were learning to drive. You had ridden for hundreds of thousands of miles as a passenger. Starting at age 14 or so, you had no doubt started watching your parents' every move every time they started the car and backed out of the driveway in anticipation of when you would one day get behind the wheel. Getting behind the wheel and going through all of the motions of driving, however, is very different from watching. It is the same when you are showing someone how to do something that is new to them. Take the time to show, teach, and check for understanding. It will avoid all sorts of misunderstanding later.

The second thing that Talane suggests is a key to delegating is to delegate the "whole job." Once a person knows what they are supposed to do and has demonstrated an understanding of what the result is supposed to be, let him or her figure out the rest. As long as you get your final result, you should not care how it gets done. Let the person alone. It is possible that they can figure out a better, faster, or more efficient way to get the result than you had thought of if you will get out of the way and let them do their job. One of the worst habits of many managers and supervisors is they want to micromanage or dictate the specifics of a job even after they have delegated to someone else. If you are delegating the job, then delegate it. If you are too attached to the job to let someone else do it, then don't bother to delegate that job out…find something else to delegate…or continue to feel overwhelmed and put upon because you are trying to do it all.

The third key, says Talane, is to establish a system for reporting back or checking in. Determine ahead of time that you will periodically "check in" with the individual who has taken on the task or tasks to complete. In addition, provide a way for the person who is charged with the task to report to you in case they run into something that creates a snag or a problem. That way, you won't be blindsided by learning that three weeks have gone by, and the individual has been waiting for you to check in before letting you know that there is a problem. Establishing two-way communication is necessary and will help you avoid headaches later.

If you are the typical busy professional, you have too many things to do and too little time in which to do them. Getting help isn't a sign of weakness, but getting effective help means learning to delegate effectively and appropriately. These tips are meant to help you whether you are thinking of hiring a personal assistant or a house cleaner. They can even help if you are just thinking of assigning household chores to your children. Take the time to train them properly, check for understanding, and establish a method for checking in and reporting back on progress or the lack of it.

Happy delegating!


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Kitty Boitnott
Boitnott Coaching, LLC

Glen Allen VA 23060
United States of America