Learn to Let Go

Delegating, if you can do it, is essential to your own success.

EFFECTIVE leaders are made, not born. As you rise to leadership status within your enterprise and/or the organizations in which you participate, you must enlist the help of others. Their contributions are vital to your own career success, and they compound the value you bring to the table.

Delegation is a learned skill. It is making others responsible for on-time, on-budget, satisfactory delivery of work product while maintaining suitable control over the process and product. Your superiors want to see you do it well.

How you reward will make this individual and others either more or less willing to help you the next time.

Human resources and management companies say there are six stages to delegation:

1. Deciding what to delegate. Start with an Activity Log. Identify tasks that you can teach to someone else or someone else already knows how to accomplish. The best strategy is to delegate complete jobs.

2. Finding the right person. Whoever does the job must be capable and willing to do the work and have the time to do it properly.

3. Explaining your expectations. Clearly define what you want done, why you want it, when, and how. Explain how and when you will check on the progress of the project as it moves forward. Make yourself available for questions or coaching if necessary.

4. Managing the process. Don't interfere or micromanage. Review progress at the agreed-upon mileposts, but otherwise, let go.

5. Accepting the work. When the work is delivered, assess it thoroughly. If you aren't satisfied, explain why and ask the individual to correct what's wrong. That way, he or she learns to do the job to your satisfaction.

6. Rewarding the effort. This person has completed a successful process that meets your expectations. Share the credit appropriately and praise the accomplishment. How you reward will make this individual and others either more or less willing to help you the next time.

Many of us find it difficult to ask others for help. Perhaps we have specific processes in mind and struggle to be silent when they choose different methods. But if those methods are effective, your delegation has empowered them, increased their skill set, and made them--and you--more valuable to your superiors. If the delegation fails, that's your fault for not monitoring and correcting along the way. Your superiors will see this, as well.

In the end, we must delegate. Doing it right is vital to managing workloads that only get worse, for most of us. Your career advancement hinges on acquiring the skill of effective delegation.

This article originally appeared in the May 2007 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Fred Elliott is a freelance author in Austin, Texas, who writes frequently about occupational safety and health topics.

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