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Proven 5 Step Approach on How to Delegate Effectively

Betsy Allen-Manning > blog > Proven 5 Step Approach on How to Delegate Effectively


Delegation is one of the top ways to manage your time better as a busy leader. It shows you have exemplary leadership skills and trust within your team. Many leaders avoid delegating, however, because they can either get it done faster themselves, they don’t trust the employee to do it correctly, they’re afraid the employee will say no or they simply don’t know how to delegate effectively. The good news is, delegation, like any other skill, can be developed. You simply need to understand the delegation process. Here are 5 ways to help you improve your delegation skills, trust your team to get the task done right, finish on time and get people to say yes to your request.

How to Delegate Effectively Using the 5 W’s Approach:

1. What

Effective delegation starts with stating the exact task that you’re asking someone to do? Be specific and clear. When someone doesn’t have enough information they either procrastinate on starting the task, pass it off to someone else or ignore the request altogether. When delegating tasks, make sure the person you’re assigning the task to understands exactly what you’re asking of them.

Tip: After you delegate tasks, get used to asking the other person if they have any questions for you. This gives them a chance to express whether they understand your request or not.

2. Why

When a parent tells a child to do something, the child’s response is almost always, “why?”. The answer a parent normally gives is the good old phrase, “because I said so”. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work in the adult world. Anytime we ask someone to do something out of their normal routine, they will naturally wonder why. Honor this natural tendency, and you will receive a better response from them. Say you ask a team member to train a new employee instead of you doing it yourself. They may wonder, “Why do I have to do it? Why are you passing the buck off to me? As you delegate work remember, a leader’s job is to think of the potential questions an employee may ask ahead of time so that you’re prepared to answer them.

There are 2 ways to get your WHY across successfully:

A. State the benefit they will receive by taking on the task at hand. Using the example above, you may say to your employee, “You’ve expressed your interest in becoming a team lead and training new employees is part of that job. I want to help prepare you now so that you’re ready to move up when the position becomes available.

B. Use the number one word that is known for getting people to buy in, and that word is….. ‘BECAUSE’.

In a study performed by Ellen Langer at Harvard University, Langer asked to push in line at the library to photocopy some papers:

“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” The number of people who agreed: 60%.

“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?” The number of people who agreed: 94%.

The word BECAUSE, psychologically, helps people buy into your request.

3. Way

Do they know the way to achieve the task at hand? If we want to set our team up for success, then we need to make sure they’re capable of completing the tasks we give them. You want to consider at this time whether they’re a high delegation individual or low delegation individual. A high delegation individual has done the task before, they do it correctly, finish on time and never give you attitude. With this person, you can delegate more quickly and trust it will be done. A low delegation individual may not have done this task before. They may often make mistakes in their normal duties, tend to procrastinate or have a bad attitude when asked to something out of the norm. With this person, you want to make sure you take your time explaining how important this task is, and help show them the way to accomplish the task successfully. You can’t motivate others, but you can empower people to feel motivated themselves by showing them the way to succeed.

4. When

This one often gets overlooked. When do you want this task completed by? The mistake I see leaders make in this step is being too general. You may say, “Have this on my desk by the end of the day.” What’s wrong with that you ask? In one of my leadership trainings, I asked what “end of the day” meant to each leader. One person said 5 pm. Another said 3 pm, and another said 7 pm. The phrase “end of the day” means something different to everyone, so if an employee hands a report in late, whose fault is it? Theirs or yours? Take responsibility and choose your words carefully. If you expect the task to be done by 5 pm, tell them that exact time.

Tip: If someone is a constant procrastinator, tell them you want it done 2 hours earlier than needed. That gives you a 2-hour window to check up on them and have it done on time. (This would be used for your low delegation employee.)

5. Who

Who do they need to work with in order to accomplish this task? You may be well aware of the various people or departments each task requires you to work with, but the person you’re delegating to may not. Set them up to succeed by giving them the contact information of each person they will need to collaborate with to complete the task.

Delegating doesn’t have to be hard or scary; it can be a smooth process and also show that you have impeccable leadership skills when done correctly.

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Betsy Allen-Manning

Leadership Speaker | Best Selling Author | Organizational Development Expert

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1. Comment below on how you will use the Proven 5 Step Approach on How to Delegate Effectively in your business. If you want to dive deeper into building trust, respect and influence as a leader, go get a copy of my audiobook, The TRIUMPH Method, where I walk you through 7 Simple Steps For Developing Committed and Highly Motivated Teams.

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