How to Improve Delegation Skills: A Simple Formula

how to improve delegation skillsSometimes it’s frustrating to rely on others.

But if you are a manager or a team leader, you need help from others. You need to coordinate and organize and oversee a lot of work. And you need to maximize results.

You need to be organized and effective.

One of the best things you can do as a leader it learn how to improve delegation skills.

Fortunately, there is a formula for success.

Be specific and give a deadline.

Everyone can be successful, if you, as the leader, follow this formula. Just as you are relying on others, they are relying on you.

Here’s the deal…

To be effective, people need to know what to do and when to do it. If you set expectations clearly on these two parameters, then there is little room for confusion.

This simple point is easily lost in the heat of the moment.

It’s natural. When you are speaking real-time, there is an appearance of clear and unambiguous communication. But often, that’s just not the case.

There is one step more needed to lock things in.

Without that lock-in, confusion ensues. The moment your conversation ends, the person you just spoke to is going to retreat back into their hectic schedule and the chaos of their many other other responsibilities.

Give them something to latch onto. Something that they can take with them. Give them direction that is easy to follow. That’s how you can help them. Which helps you, as the leader, to ensure the goal is met.

Let’s look at each part of the formula.


How to improve delegation skills by being specific

Specificity makes your request more actionable. It also requires you to understand exactly what you are asking for!

This is where we can fall down as leaders. We need to do a little more work in order to be sure that we can be clear.

Because, if you can’t put your request into specific terms, then you might not yet know exactly what you need.

That’s ok. It just means that you caught something that must be fixed.

This is a perfect opportunity to collaborate with the person you need help from. Here is where you can establish a shared understanding of what, precisely, needs to be done.

They probably know more than you do about the specifics. Ask questions. Push back on vague answers. Don’t let up until you have a clear picture of exactly what it will look like when they are done.

If you can’t define the specifics up front, then you have put success at risk.


How to improve delegation skills by creating deadlines

Deadlines are another way to add clarity. Once you have agreement on what must be done, you need to answer when it must be done.

Here again, ambiguity is a killer. If we leave this implied and not clearly stated, a lot of time and energy is lost.

If the request is born out of a meeting, it’s often implied that the request is due at the next meeting. Is that really the timing that is going to work best? Is it ok that the person may cram this in just before it is due — or do you need time to review it prior to the meeting?

Does the request need input from others? Have you allowed time for that? Have you thought through the logistics that may influence that timing?

Which leads us to an interesting question. Should the task be broken down into smaller milestones? Often times a draft review, input from others, or other dependencies make it a good idea to iterate or build something in pieces or phases. If this is the case, you may need to discuss multiple deadlines or checkpoints.

The best way to work through this is to think about the ultimate deadline first and then work your way back. Whatever the task, it will likely need to support something else. Meeting that requirement often has a timeframe associated with that.

Look at that “drop dead” date. And then back off a bit. Always leave a buffer.

Then, back off further as you identify intermediary steps. Talk through what those are (which you are now well prepared to do, having talked through the specifics of what exactly is needed in the end). Talk through who else might need to be involved. Talk through the logistics of pulling things together. Talk through the necessary checkpoints.

You now have a timeline to go with your specific requirements. You have specifics and a deadline. That’s the magic formula for delegation success.


How to scale the formula – up or down

The great thing about this approach is that you can scale the formula up and down. Which is a great exercise in locking the formula into your own habits. Which is crucial to maximizing how to improve your delegation skills.

If you are delegating something large or to a manager, your first request could be the definition of the specifics. It could be the development of a timeline. Your first checkpoint can be to review those together.

If you are delegating something small and simple, simply remember the mantra to be specific and give a deadline. This works even when delegating something to yourself! Put it on your to-do list, but be specific — what is it you are going to do and by when?