As a manager, you might think you are doing your job well when you delegate a task to an employee. Surely your staff member feels trusted and empowered when you ask them to take on an important assignment, right? Hang on. When you ask a team member to take responsibility for a task may be just as important as how you do it.
The Right Time
To properly delegate a task, it is important that the employee be prepared. Tell the employee that you believe they are ready for the duty. Then ask them their opinion. If they agree move ahead. If not, remind them of times they have done great work in the past and your confidence in completing it well.
Next, make sure that you have the time to explain the WHY of the delegated task. “Take down the old sale signs and count them” is a lot less intriguing than “I think we have been creating a lot of visual pollution in our store with too many signs. Take down the old sale signs and count them. Let’s start seeing if we are really increasing the number of offers in the store or not.” The WHY will help your employee understand the importance of the task and be more invested in doing it well.
The Wrong Time
So WHEN is the worst time to delegate? When you have begun the job but now want to move on to something else. Delegating mid-way through a task or process doesn’t give true ownership of the duty to the new person. They didn’t start the job. So any problems aren’t really their concern. Meanwhile, the message you send is that there are other “more important” things to do. That this task is beneath you. –Not exactly a way to excite a person to finish the task. Finally, with a job partially completed, the chances of errors in the handoff (counting down drawers or taking an inventory come to mind) are high.
Delegation is a critical skill for a productive manager. To do it well, communicate the expectation, the “why” behind the ask and confidence in your employee to do it well. AND make sure you ask them before beginning the task yourself.