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Delegation: 11 Tips, Tactics and Tools to Effectively Harness the Power of Your Team

Delegation11TipsLast week we wrote about the need for both a steering team and a design team in order to delegate the heavy demands on leadership to run both operations and designing cultural shifts within an organization.  We argued that having both the steering team (senior leadership team), as well as a design team (a team chartered to handle the “to do” list of cultural transformation) could help you as a leader relinquish some of the burden to “get all things done.”

Some comments we received on our post was that this is a good notion, but when dealing with a lean staff (which we’re sure most people are dealing with these days), that the actual idea of having two teams, with perhaps many members being on both teams, is futile.

We respectively disagree. Well, not entirely.  If you happen to be a poor delegator (don’t feel badly because most of us are inherently bad at this – because we are held accountable for control and outcomes), then yes – teaming is probably a bad idea.  Remember that teams are a means to an end.  The end is not to hold hands and say we teamed! It is to accomplish the goal.

However, being teaming experts with 30 years of experience, we think teaming is the right way to go.  Usually when we first launch organizational teams and start with a small start-up team or work with the senior team, the ‘ah ha’ moment that most team members have is that it is often difficult for them to delegate with any sense of trust.  And yet, the success of teaming depends on demonstrating an ability to let go of the controls.

Here are some tips, tactics and tools that we think will help leaders delegate more effectively.  A leader is not great in and of him or herself.  A leader is good at building greatness together.

Tip 1:  Philosophically embracing delegation – Much like our business attempts to use the iPad for more than just entertainment, we have to come to a philosophical decision to embrace delegation as a tool that builds engagement and is a pathway to employee empowerment.  Don’t be embarrassed if this isn’t your cup of tea – at least you know where you stand.  But if you do want to delegate more effectively the other tips may help.

Tip 2:  Utilizing the RASCI chart – Most projects have a number of stakeholders, all of whom assume they’ll have certain roles to play to drive the project’s success.  But often the more stakeholders, the greater the amount of confusion about who is doing what.   The RASCI chart helps to define Responsibility, Accountability, Support, Consulting and Informed elements for each stakeholder group.  The RASCI also creates a visual picture of a failure to delegate if any one stakeholder is holding all the accountability (the A) or the responsibility (the R).

Tip 3: Role Rotation – In many aspects of teams (e.g. meetings role, star points functions), there should be role rotation.  No one member has full responsibility of facilitator, scribe, time keeper, or process observer.  Rotation allows everyone to put some immediate ‘skin in the game’ and play a valuable role for the team.  The rotation mechanism also works to help people appreciate the roles when it’s not their turn (e.g. not talking while the facilitator is moving through the agenda, because soon it will be their turn again). We have seen project leaders try to juggle the role of team leader, meeting scribe, timekeeper and project management all at one time and then wonder why the meetings don’t go well.  The goal in teaming is to get as many people “on the playing field” as possible; role rotation helps to make that happen.

Tip 4: Define the task – Think through the various skills, understanding, assumptions needed to perform the task. Delegate the “what,” not the “how” to people.  This is such an important aspect of empowering a team.  If they feel they have no power over the approach to be used, they won’t have the buy-in to make it happen.

Tip 5: Identify a team member’s TRM - Task Relevant Maturity and their ability and willingness to take responsibility for directing their own behavior.  On many occasions the team may not be fully competent to take on a particular task and yet be reluctant to let people know.  By creating a Hand-Off plan that identifies not only the task but also the gap between skills needed and skills required, and the training necessary, the team has an opportunity to develop its task relevant maturity.

Tip 6: Identify the amount of authority the team members has for carrying out the task – These can range from

  • Full authority — don’t bother me with the details.
  • Full authority — keep me informed.
  • Partial authority — give me alternatives for final decision.
  • Do the job right, but leave all decisions to me.

Tip 7: Identify what resources will be available for completion of the task ahead of time.  Too many times the delegation occurs without any discussion of the required supporting resources needed to make it happen, whether it’s time, people or materials.

Tip 8: Communicate relevant organizational policy – what will affect the carrying out of the task and the factors upon which performance will be evaluated.  There are always hidden curves and relationships within organizations and teams that need to be taken into account.  Many times the hurdles are in getting the tasks accomplished, but in managing the various relationships.

Tip 9: Type and frequency of reporting – Be clear about the type and frequency of reporting and the communication expected, especially at each stage gate or milestone.  Follow up during delegating is crucial to your success.

Tip 10: Give appropriate recognition when deserved.  If delegation is the front and middle of a task, then recognition should be the end.  We all need feedback when we’ve taken on something difficult or new.  Many times teams take on an incredible amount of work and need to know that their accomplishments are recognized by others.

Tip 11: Take appropriate action if things go wrong – Don’t yank away delegation after the first trip out.  Imagine if we did that with children and chores – they’d never learn anything! Recognize that your delegation may also be a part of the problem. Delegation and accountability are learned skills and require some time to master for both the delegator and “delegatee.”

Delegation shouldn’t be just the team leader delegating, but all members should be practicing delegation horizontally and downward.  As you’re cascading responsibility to your team members, it’s also in their purview to do the same with their subsequent teams.  As you move things to their plates, they should be moving more tactical things off of their plates and onto other people’s plates.  That’s why we say teaming is so hard and requires a lot of trust and accountability. Usually, what we see when true delegation starts to happen is a push back from the people that have not been required to do tasks at a high performance level and now they’re being required to do that.  Delegation and reaction to delegation will be the first glimpse a team leader or sponsor or leader will have to differentiate between who’s putting “skin in the game” and who’s just full of hot air when discussing ‘shared workload.’


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An innovative training and employee development firm located in southern Vermont since 1984, we specialize in helping organizations get the most out of their people by raising the bar, inspiring potential and partnering with organizations to build a people-centered, high-engagement culture.

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