Delegate…and Relax

Most people inherently know that they should delegate more, and delegate better, but one big obstacle keeps them from doing it…

It might not come out right

…so I better jump in and make sure
it is going OK or just do it myself.

Who’s at fault?

It it doesn’t come out right, the uncomfortable question this raises is –
did this person fail to do a good job because:

1. They are not good enough at the job? or
2. I am not good enough at delegating?

It’s not about getting comfortable with worry

The real secret of successful delegating is not to learn how to deal with the emotional discomfort of letting go, and learning to live with being worried about the outcome, or accepting bad outcomes…

It’s about preventing reasons to worry

Your job is to delegate, let go, NOT micromanage… AND create structure, support and processes so you ensure that it is going to get done right.

You don’t deal with the worrying, you ensure it’s not necessary.

Ways to build comfort and insurance into the project
without micro-managing

1. Let the person create the timeline, define the deliverables and how you will measure them.  The encouragement and trust goes a long way, and you either get the pleasant surprise of a better plan than you would have come up with, or you get an early warning that this person needs more support.

2. Tighten the Outcomes.  If you are concerned that the person is not capable enough to run with the project, Instead of a 6 month outcome, discuss outcomes that occur every two weeks.

3. Focus on the outcome, not the activity.
No two humans will do a task exactly the same way.  If they deliver the outcome, it shouldn’t matter how they do it.  Let them worry about how and what.  You worry about WHY, and what needs to be true when it is done.

4. Create an actual process and tracking system for long term or repetitive tasks – a software development lifecycle with checkpoints is a good example.  But why not define a project lifecycle with checkpoints for a quarterly analyst presentation, a press release, or a marketing campaign?

5. Third party reviews. Get yourself out of the position of always being the one to judge whether a deliverable is good enough or not.  Get the actual consumers of the deliverable to review and provide feedback.  Your employees will learn far more this way.

6. Don’t forget to inspect and measure things along the way.  If you set up a timeline with review steps along the way, you must follow up.  A great deal of your comfort comes from the fact that people take you seriously and actually do the committed work.  A long time mentor of mine always put it “You get what you INspect, not what you EXpect”.

7. Teach. When you are delegating things you are personally good at, always think of delegating as a teaching opportunity. If you need to sometimes jump down and do the work yourself, make sure someone is watching and learning.
See also Let People Fail.

Bottom line…

You need to delegate effectively if you want to get anything significant done, get anywhere in your career, and save yourself from an un-doable workload.

If you are either doing the work yourself, or worried about the work not getting done, you need to change your strategy.

You can delegate and feel comfortable that the work is getting done as long as you do the higher level work of setting up the systems, processes and measures that ensure the right things are happening along the way.

Note to the micromanaged…

I will write another post on this because many people suffer from this.

But the short answer is, you need make your boss comfortable that he will get what he wants in some way other than by micromanaging.   Some of the techniques above can be useful with your boss too.

Category Note: I filed this post under “CONNECT Better” because it is critical to always be building a broad base of support. Getting your team and others to accomplish work that you need done is a critical element of business effectiveness and career success.

You can find Patty at, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or read her books RISE and MOVE.

The Introvert's Advantage
Thrown Overboard