Delegating Tasks and Monitoring Progress as a Manager

Delegation requires you to communicate well with the people to whom you want to delegate. Incorporating six tips into your approach will help you delegate tasks more effectively:

  1. allow enough time for delegating the task
  2. communicate all necessary details and background information
  3. check understanding thoroughly
  4. focus on outcomes, not methods
  5. provide encouragement by expressing confidence and rewarding success, and
  6. review and monitor progress as planned

Getting the information across

If getting the task done right is important at all, you need to give the process of delegating your full attention and make sure the other person does the same. To avoid problems, you need to allow enough time to explain the delegated task, including the details related to what, how, and when.

During your meeting with the person, it's important to communicate all necessary details about the task if you want to get the right results. This includes explaining both what needs to be done and why the task is important. In some situations, a brief overview may be enough. In others, a detailed written description may be needed. Naturally, the level of detail to provide depends greatly on the person, the person's skills, and the complexity of the task. A good rule of thumb is to err on the side of providing too much information rather than too little. The goal is to provide all necessary background information the person requires to do a good job. This information should have been determined as part of your planning. You need to explain the results you expect, the standards that must be met, the deadlines involved, and any constraints that apply. You should also provide the rationale behind any requirements and explain how progress monitoring will take place.

Once you've explained all the necessary information about the task, you must thoroughly check the person's understanding. But, if you think a simple "Is that clear?" is enough, then you might want to think again. Most people quickly respond with "yes" regardless of whether they are really sure of themselves. And even those who are confident that they understand may have missed something. A yes-or-no answer to this question won't confirm the person's understanding about how to do the job.

When delegating, another important tip is to focus on the outcome, not the method. Give your employees as much freedom as possible to decide how to execute the task you're giving them. Provide suggestions and advice as appropriate, but let the person decide how to achieve the results you need. People work in different ways. Ignoring this may cause you to miss out on one of the potential benefits of delegating – finding new and better ways of doing things. Forcing someone to use your methods, no matter how tried and true, may get in the way of success. Don't limit the options. Of course, letting go of your preconceptions about how a job should be done can be difficult, especially one you've been doing for a long time. But what's important is helping the person succeed to your satisfaction.

Another tip is to provide encouragement. Close your initial meeting on a positive note by conveying your trust and confidence in the person. You might say "It seems like you have a good understanding of what to do and why. I know you'll do a great job. I'll check in at the scheduled time, but if you need anything before then, don't hesitate to call. Thanks for taking this on."

After delegating a task, you must review and monitor progress to ensure successful completion by checking in regularly, providing ongoing support and guidance and showing your appreciation. You should check in regularly to make sure that the other person has everything needed to do the work. At the same time, you can learn how the work is going and identify and head off potential problems. To monitor progress, you need to stick to the regular check-in points you originally set up in your monitoring plan. By checking in only at these established points, you don't imply any lack of trust in the other person and you avoid hovering. Using open-ended questions will get you the detailed information you need. For example, instead of asking "Is everything going OK?" ask "What has been going well so far?" or "What problems have you run into?" Instead of asking "Do you need anything?" ask "What additional resources would help you?" Providing support and guidance means being available without jumping in and micromanaging at every opportunity. And when you say "I'm available for help if you need it" you've got to mean it. When the person comes to you for help, be patient and take the time to find out what the person really needs. Supporting the person you delegated to is similar to mentoring and coaching. When problems arise, you want to give the person the time and opportunity to deal with them rather than instantly stepping in. You should also show appreciation as the task is being completed. Something as simple as saying "Thank you for doing such a good job" can help motivate people to be more helpful, and make them more effective in the future. You may also want to consider rewarding progress at each follow-up meeting. And when you do so, do it in public, if possible.

Delegating effectively is largely a matter of communicating the information you've developed during planning. To do this, allow enough time for delegating the task, communicate all necessary details, and check to be sure you've been understood. After delegating, the person to whom you've delegated owns the responsibility for successful completion. As much as possible, you must focus on outcomes rather than methods and allow the other person to decide the best way to carry out the task. After delegating a task, you want to ensure the person succeeds. You can monitor progress by checking in regularly, providing ongoing support and guidance, and showing your appreciation.