How to Delegate the Right Way

Find Problem Areas
When expectations are defined at the very beginning of a project, a singular objective is defined, goals are set, strategies put in place and actionable tasks documented—then, and only then, is an organization setting their employees up for success. Assuming this is happening, finding problem areas is normally straightforward: Wherever there is a breakdown, the manager directly addresses the issue with the stakeholders. Once the issue is identified, steps are taken to move past the issue.

That sounds great, but the big “X-factor” is people. Countless books and teachings have been done about hiring the right people and ensuring they have “the right seat on the bus,” as author Jim Collins describes it in the classic Good to Great book. Yet, this doesn’t often happen across the board where egos and turf wars get in the way of getting things done. For delegation to really, really work well, you’ve got to have a team that is empowered to cooperate and succeed.

“The way you delegate is that first you have to hire people that you really have confidence in. You won’t truly let those people feel a sense of autonomy if you don’t have confidence in them.” —Robert Pozen, business leader and professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management

Add Structure
In my coaching, one of the most basic (but overlooked) systems I teach is how to implement online project management. Almost invariably, I hear from my mentees the following: “We’ve tried that” or “Nobody uses it” or “I’m too busy to handle admin stuff.” My goal is to break down these barriers and help my mentees create a simple, sustainable project management system that pays dividends in new levels of personal time management.

My mentees see the immediate value of adding structure. Just this week, one of my recent mentees told me, “I had complained about a piece of equipment we’ve had for years that literally had a hammer attached via a bungee cord so that you could bang on it to make it work. After we documented the tasks that required extra man hours to complete because of this faulty gear, I finally had the proof to justify replacing it.”

Years of inefficiency totaling hundreds of man hours were quickly solved by simply adding a structure that gave leaders what they need to make informed decisions: useful, objective information.

Delegate Responsibility With Authority
To recap, there are some clear steps and sequential processes to empower employees with delegated responsibility and authority:

  • Define expectations and create a singular objective.
  • Set goals (if this, by then) that relate directly to the objective.
  • Determine strategies to accomplish each goal.
  • Document actionable tasks that relate to each strategy.
  • Force responsibility down and out.
  • Find problem areas.
  • Add structure and delegate.

“I had to delegate authority to the people on my staff. That means you shave away the hierarchy.” —Jurgen Klinsmann, Head Coach, U.S. men’s soccer team