First posted by Sharon Williams on Dynamic Business.

1. SOS: When a ship sends a message to another ship they do so with the use of Morse Code, a series of taps and signals that tap out an entire message. When a ship receives a message it sends the message back in its entirety to the sending ship to ensure the right message has been received. There is simply no place for error. In the same way, when you delegate a task, ask the team member to repeat back to you what the task is. This way you can pick up any miscommunications and ensure that your request has been understood.

2. The “it’s not done till it’s delivered’’ boomerang: When you throw a boomerang it comes back to you and this is what you want with delegated tasks. Ensure your team member understands that the task isn’t complete until a response or feedback is returned to the owner. Often in the office you will hear “yes I did that”, but as I tell my team, ‘’it is not done until it is delivered.”’ Until you, the manager, know that a task is competently done, you have not delegated effectively. Ensure your team knows that a task is not considered done until it is delivered back to you.

3. Beware of black holes: Black holes generate fear. They exist in the universe and swallow up planets, stars etc. Things can be lost in black holes and I tell my team I want no delegation black holes. I want to hear back on progress, all the way back up the management line.

4. Cultivate a culture of care not ‘Who cares?’: Disengaged staff harm business. If staff are not interested in servicing customers beyond expectations and performing duties well, the business will suffer and ultimately so will bottom line. A good starting point is to put the right people in the right jobs, doing what they like. In a competitive marketplace, most people won’t stay if they are not happy. We tend to be good at what we enjoy. Ask how to keep them motivated. Incentives, rewards and a genuine thank you go a long way.
Some common fears when being delegated a task include:

  • Criticism or embarrassment if I get some or part of the task wrong, or if I fail to meet expectations
  • Exposure of the lack of my skills or current working knowledge
  • Being seen as the frequently ‘dumped on’ or most junior employee, and consequently not being taken seriously

Workplace delegation involves three important concepts and practices: responsibility, authority and accountability. Each of these is equally important to both the manager and the relevant team member.
Accountability is the top down as well as bottom up
As manager, when we delegate to our team, we need to be aware that we share our responsibility with them. Individuals and teams should be accountable for their performance, as you are held accountable for yours.
Before you next delegate, prevent an unwanted game of ‘hot potato’ with the following:

  • Does this task really need to be delegated?
  • Who is the best suited individual or team for the task?
  • Does it need a high level of specialisation?
  • Explain why the task is being delegated and provide a bigger context?
  • Explain why it is important, as understanding and responsibility encourages commitment
  • Set expectations for reporting and results
  • Agree on and set a deadline.

Once a task has been delegated it is important to maintain contact to:

  • Implement controls for reporting and feedback, create a two-way street
  • Train your people with the skills necessary to complete the task
  • Provide necessary resources for completion of the task.

At the conclusion of a delegated task: