Who wouldn’t want to accomplish more in the limited amount of time that we have? I think we would. But, since we’re only given 24-hours a day, the only way that’s possible is to manage our time and energy more efficiently.
Over the years, I’ve found the 4 D’s of time management to be the most useful in this area. For those unfamiliar, these are;
- Do. These are either your top priorities or tasks that only eat up a couple of minutes, like responding to a client’s email.
- Defer. For tasks that are important, but don’t require your attention right now, schedule these when you have availability.
- Delegate. Here we have essential tasks that aren’t always worth your time, such as administrative tasks. They could also be tasks that aren’t in your wheelhouse, like coding.
- Drop. Anything unnecessary should be deleted from your to-do list or calendar.
I think that this is pretty straightforward. However, delegation seems to trip a lot of people up. Maybe it’s because you’re unclear on your expectations or haven’t identified the right person for the correct job.
Regardless, learning how to effectively delegate is a vital skill that leaders need to perfect — whether you have an in-person or virtual team. Even if you’re flying solo, you might still have to outsource certain tasks to freelancers. So, with that in mind, the next time your delegate, utilize the 6 C’s to ensure that it will be a success.
“Match the person to the job,” advises Brian Tracy. “One of the great time wasters in the world of work is delegating the task to the wrong person.” All too often, tasks aren’t “delegated to a person who is not capable of doing it properly or getting it done on schedule.”
“The only accurate predictor of future performance is past performance,” Tracy adds. “The rule is that you never delegate an important task to a person who has not performed that task satisfactorily in the past.” It’s unfair to everyone involved “to expect a person who has not done a job before to perform at a sufficient level of quality when they are given the job for the first time.”
While Tracy is spot-on, I’m also a firm believer in giving people a chance to take on new responsibilities. It kind of reminds me of when you’re applying for a new job right out of college. You see an ad, but the employer wants someone with experience. But, how can you gain this know-how when you’re a newbie?
I wouldn’t exactly advise a “sink-or-swim” approach. But, take time to get to know each team member, such as through 1:1s. You might discover that they have a hidden talent or the motivation to broaden their horizons. From there, you could offer training or mentorship opportunities for them to enhance their competence.
Think back to when you were a kid. How would you react if your parent’s dumped a pile of Legos on the table and asked you to build a helicopter? The best part about Legos was that you could let your imagination run free. But, in this case, your creation probably wouldn’t resemble your parent’s expectation of a helicopter.
The same is true when it comes to delegating tasks to others.
“You’ve got to have real clarity of objective,” says Harvard Business School Professor Kevin Sharer in the online Management Essentials course. At the minimum, this should include an alignment of “what does good look like,” timeline, and “the technique of measuring accomplishment.” You should also consider discussing necessities like protocols, resource requirements, and sensitivities.
While there are times when micromanagement is required, that shouldn’t be the norm. In fact, if you’ve chosen the right people and provided clarity, then you can hand the ball off them and watch from the sidelines.
In my opinion, this is delegation at its finest. You can focus on your priorities while knowing that the task you’ve assigned is in good hands. What’s more, because you’re not micromanaging your team members, this builds trust while building up their self-esteem and motivation.
If you’re struggling to build up your team’s confidence, here some tactics you should try;
- Acknowledge their weaknesses, but also play to their strengths.
- Never assume. Before assigning a task, ask questions like, “Do you feel confident enough in tackling this task? If no, can I ask why?”
- Give your team members a chance to showcase their unique talents and abilities.
- Celebrate small victories and share each other’s achievements.
- Grant autonomy through flexible schedules and letting them work however they want.
“People get excited about what’s possible, but they commit only when they understand their role in making it happen,” says Jesse Sostrin, Ph.D., author, and Director in PwC’s Leadership Coaching Center of Excellence. “Once you’ve defined the work, clarified the scope of their contribution, and ensured that it aligns with their capacity, carefully communicate any and all additional expectations for complete understanding.”
When is this most crucial? It’s “when you have a precise outcome or methodology in mind,” adds Jesse Sostrin. “They can’t read your mind, so if the finished product needs to be meticulous, be equally clear-cut in the ask.”
“Once clarity is established, confirm their interpretation (face-to-face, or at least voice-to-voice, to avoid email misinterpretations),” he suggests. “‘But I told them how I wanted it done!’ will not be the reason the ball got dropped; it will simply be the evidence that you didn’t confirm their understanding and inspire their commitment.”
“You’ve got to have some way to communicate so that the person you delegated to can come back and to you and report,” says Sharer in the Management Essentials course. “You’ve got to have some way along the way to see how things are going.”
You might be tempted, but “It isn’t fired and forget,” he adds. In other words, “‘I just give you the task, and I don’t worry about it anymore.” That’s just not going to cut it.
Rather, there has to be “some way to monitor the progress along the way without me getting in your way,’” Sharer advises.
In short, you need to set up regular checkpoints to review how they’re doing. You can then provide feedback so that you overcome any roadblocks before they get any worse. But, this presents another problem.
Employees dread hearing the phrase, Can I give you some feedback? And, a lot of times, we’re also uneasy about sharing our assessment as well.
“That’s not to say managers should stop giving feedback altogether,” write Ben Wigert and Nate Dvorak for Gallup. “There’s no doubt that reflecting on past performance and discussing how it went is important — it facilitates learning.”
“The problem is employees typically experience feedback as criticism that is delivered far too long after the fact,” they add. “Feedback is helpful when it’s immediate and constructive. And even then, feedback alone does not translate to great coaching.”
“Great managers take their coaching to the next level by observing, listening, and proactively anticipating topics that will be useful to employees in the future,” state Wigert and Dvorak.
“They paint a vision for the future — a portrait of success — and establish an ongoing dialogue with employees that helps them comfortably discuss issues they encounter along the way.”
Finally, for delegation to be consistent and effective, there needs to be an outline for both day-to-day tasks and repetitive processes. That just means that your team should know how to prioritize, how to access resources, and the best way to touch base with you.
In short, when they’re given an assignment down, they can just dive in as it’s become a routine process. While this may be bumpy at first, over time, you can become more and more of a coach in lieu of a micromanager.
Image credit: moose photos; pexels; thank you!
Editor-in-Chief at Calendar. Former Editor-in-Chief and writer at Startup Grind. Freelance editor at Entrepreneur.com. Deanna loves to help build startups, and guide them to discover the business value of their online content and social media marketing.