You wake up to the barely noticeable hum of your pda. It’s 3:10 am, and as you wipe your bleary eyes you realize this may be the most miserable day of your entire life. As you reach for what has seemingly become your technology life support device, you ask yourself one more time, “When will this ever change?
At one time or another, technology leaders find themselves in a transition period of handling critical tasks themselves to finding the right people on the team to delegate those tasks to. In a previous post, I covered a few elements about successful team building through leadership that included communication, vision casting, project management, and knowing your team. See earlier post
In this post, I’ll explore some basic delegation techniques that even seasoned leaders fail to follow.
There are some basic principles of delegation and quite a few good books on the topic. I personally follow and drill into my team leaders the following (1) know the limits of your team…don’t delegate tasks to them in their areas of weakness, (2) communicate your expectations clearly, and (3) inspect what you expect…frequent follow up as needed.
- Know the Limits of Your Team. It amazes me how many tasks get delegated to team members by leaders that really don’t grasp that a task may be over the team member’s head. I still recall being right out of college and having my first engineering job. My boss gave me an excel spreadsheet he had built to estimate manufacturing jobs. He then handed me a job portfolio worth $1-2 million. I still marvel at what made him trust a 24 year old straight out of college with estimating a job worth 30% of the company’s gross revs.Frequently with young leaders, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the never ending amount of work that is always piling up. Sometimes delegating comes more out of desperation than real planning. Make a habit out of knowing the limits of your team. The reality is that with young inexperienced team members, they don’t even know their own limits. I try to make a regiment during delegation of helping them think through major hurdles and pointing them in directions for any necessary help I think they may need including other team members.
- Communicate Your Expectations Clearly. Many times a leader will send an email, call someone into their office or make a phone call only to vaguely communicate a task. What’s worse is high level executives holding a meeting to kick off a task and for several people in the room to walk away with different ideas on what and to who tasks were conveyed. This is fairly common practice.To combat poor communication when delegating, I ask for my team members to repeat back to me what they’ve understood me to have just said. While this can seem tedious at times, it works really well for larger projects and with team members that you meet with infrequently. It is imperative that there is clear communication on the handoff of significant tasks. This practice really helps to keep frustration to a minimum as well as reducing the amount of rework later in projects. It’s also nice to have deadlines met. 😉
- Inspect What You Expect. Once you’ve delegated a task, make sure a proper amount of follow up is done. What is the proper amount? That depends on the size and length of the project. A project requiring less than 40 man hours may require next day follow up and day before launch follow up depending on the team member. A project of 160 man hours would require a bit more. Depending on the number of people involved and the project, every 40-80 man hours of work is a good rule of thumb.Kicking off a lengthy project then letting even a week go by without a checkup could prove disastrous for a hitting delivery goals. If you want a successful launch, frequent communication and updates on progress is vital. Even the best team members can get distracted by any number of things in their day. Putting out fires, requests from other departments, requests not related to the project, etc.
Good books on delegation