How to Effectively Delegate

If you accept that you can’t do it all, then you’ll realize that delegation is a skill you’ll need. Asking someone to perform a task can be uncomfortable, but like most aspects of leadership, it can be learned and practiced.

You cannot hold people responsible for results if you supervise their methods
— Stephen R Covey

My favorite talk on delegation comes from leadership guru, Stephen Covey in the form of “Green and Clean”. This story explains how we set up an agreement with his son to take care of the yard - to keep it “green and clean”.

This story illustrates a few key aspects of effective delegation, as follows:

  1. Be outcome focused - What does success look like? Make it clear.

  2. Don’t prescribe methods - Let people decide on the how, but share obvious failure paths (what not to do).

  3. Articulate roles - Who is responsible, who helps (resources), and who evaluates performance.

  4. Ensure understanding - Can the individual re-state the key aspects of the agreement?

  5. Set-up Checkpoints - Early in the delegation, decide on the timing to check in on progress.

  6. Identify Consequences - What happens if they succeed? If they fail?

Delegation isn’t about efficiency - Believe in your people and take the time to delegate effectively, or not at all.