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Continuing with Scott’s frustration from just having too much to do, he sought some useful advice on delegating. “l know I need to delegate more; but so often it just doesn’t seem worth the hassle.  It takes longer to correct their work than just do it myself!  Anyone else have a similar experience?  Any advice on how to do this effectively?”

Sarah started the questioning: “Let me ask you this, Scott: How do you decide what to delegate and who to delegate to?”

Scott replied, “I pick tasks that I just don’t think I should be doing; why am I wasting my time doing this when I have so many more important things to do?    If it’s an accounting function or marketing function, I just pick someone in that department.”

Don chimed in, “At HP, the philosophy was: delegate to the lowest possible level.  If a task can be done by the person below you, delegate it to them.”

“Ha! If I delegated every task that could be done by someone below me, I’d have nothing to do!” retorted Juan Carlo.

“Very funny, JC.  I agree with the HP philosophy,” said Cindy.  “One thing it took me a little time to learn was the difference between abdication and delegation.  Early in my management career, I just told someone, ‘Here, do this task.’  When they brought the finished product, it was rarely good enough.  I thought I had just picked the wrong person.  My mentor taught me to take more time explaining the task and what I really expected.  I found the better I did that, the better the finished product was!”

“I had this one case,” explained Jeremy, “where I was relatively new at a company and my boss asked me to do a new product plan.  I knew this was going to be a significant project; but I did not know what his expectations were for a new product plan.  I didn’t want to invest weeks and find out my idea for a new product plan was different than his.  I asked him for an example of a good new product plan at the company and he responded, ‘there aren’t any good ones!’  So I decided I’d better do some midpoint checks to make sure I was going in the right direction.  First, I did an outline and got his review / approval of that.  Then I did other midpoint checks when a section was done to make sure I was providing the right level of detail.  It went smoothly after that; when it was finished, he said he would use it as the model for future new product plans! Since he didn’t give me the appropriate level of direction / instruction up front, I took it upon myself to make sure I was going to meet his expectations.”

 “So, Jeremy, you were one of those people that made everything harder for the people after you!”  Sarah jumped back in. “Glad I didn’t have to live up to your standards!  Seriously, I attended this delegation workshop once; they said that the three reasons delegation fails are (1) not enough time is spent upfront setting expectations, (2) not enough time is spent providing adequate training / instruction, and (3) inadequate midpoint checks.”

“I see,” responded Scott.  “Seems like an awful lot of work to effectively delegate!”

“It is,” agreed Juan Carlo.  “It’s an investment.  In the long run, it pays off.  The first time is time-consuming; but after that, it can truly become hands-off with a high-quality result … which is what you wanted in the first place. It just rarely happens the first time without the steps Sarah listed.  Unless, of course, you’re delegating to Jeremy!”

“I only have one thing to add,” continued Cindy.  “On the front end, make sure you know why you’re doing this … what’s in it for you.  That will motivate you to invest the upfront time.  Then also identify and explain to the person you’re delegating to what’s in it for them, why you picked them, and how learning this will benefit them.  That will hopefully motivate them to do a good job.”

“Very helpful. Thanks,” said Scott.  “I suppose what I’ve really been doing is abdicating, not delegating and the results were predictable.  I clearly see the steps I’ve been skipping.  I’ve got my notes here.  Going forward, I’m either going to hire Jeremy or try the new process.”


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Which of the five steps mentioned above are most frequently missed?

  1. Identifying what’s in it for me (the delegator)
  2. Identifying what’s in it for the person being delegated to
  3. Clearly setting expectations for task
  4. Providing adequate training / instruction
  5. Scheduling regular check-in points