One of the secrets J. Willard Marriott cited to his success as a CEO and leader was his commitment not to perform any task that someone else in the organization could do. His ability to effectively delegate freed up his time to create one of the world’s most successful corporations. Marriott’s mastery is not a skill set that many business owners possess. Too often, we do tasks ourselves because it either takes too long to explain what should be done, or we don't have confidence that others will complete the assigned tasks to our satisfaction.
Ineffective delegators tend to use a one-size-fits-all strategy for assigning tasks to others in their organization, claims Sabina Nawazk in a recent HBR blog. She notes that not every member of your team can receive a task and meet the completion deadline. You need to understand the challenges that team members face when you hand off a task to them.
Nawazk identified four common reasons why delegation fails:
Too often, managers do not provide their teams with the time to solve problems themselves or think critically. They become over-dependent on the star employee who manages to see the big picture faster and more often than anyone else. Instead of providing the solution or your opinion to your team, ask more questions. “What strategies would our biggest competitor use to increase sales?” Asking open-ended questions forces your team to consider alternative approaches and helps to develop their critical thinking skills.
How many times have you delegated a task and provided a deadline that is not met? To solve that challenge, establish milestones at an initial meeting and receive updates at the start of the next gettogether. Also, Nawazk advises developing a “placemat” or a one-page document that lists top priorities, identifies rewards and offers another means to motivate the team.
Missed deadlines are often the result of unrealistic expectations of the delegator. If you assign a task to a team member, ask how long they believe it will take to complete the assignment. If the response seems unreasonable, ask for an explanation of the estimate. The answer will provide better insight into how the team member views the assignment.
Lack of quality can be offset by letting your expectations be known upfront. Identify examples of less than adequate work and then explain what is acceptable. If you receive a project that is not up to snuff, don’t fix it yourself. Assign the fix to the team member whose performance fell short. When you identify ways your team can improve, their performance will follow suit.