How To Delegate

In this post I would like to discuss how to properly delegate tasks to your team members. This is also a vitally important trait to have as a leader, but unfortunately it is something that many people struggle with. The aim of this post is to give you some guidance around this, so lets get started.

Delegation check list

When delegating work you want to ensure that the person knows exactly what is required of them. You should try to minimize the number of unknowns and the check list below can help you with this. It should also be made available to people you delegating work to, so that they can also see if you are possibly missing something.

  1. Define the scope of the work
    It is vitally important to ensure that they know exactly what is expected of them. There should be no confusion with regards to where their task starts, and where it ends.

  2. Decide who is going to complete the work
    When deciding who will take on the task, you need to ask yourself, "Why give it to them?" Is it for developmental purposes, to grow their career or is it because you just need someone to do the work.

  3. Explain to them, and others, why you have chosen them for the task
    This can be very useful as you can explain why they were selected. Also, if other team members know why, then it will help in reducing them talking behind your back and saying things like "How come they got the task and not me? I'm way better than him at those tasks." Team members may also start making assumptions and think, "Do they think I'm not that good at doing that task?" etc.

  4. Define the Why, How and What of the work

    • Why - You need to let people know about the context of the work so they can understand the bigger picture. In this way, they wont be left in the dark as to what the purpose of the task is.
    • How - Explain to they how you would like it to be done. Usually, the person doesn't want to fail or let you down. If you want it to be done in a particular way then let them know. If you aren't worried about how it is done, then tell them they can do it in their style.
    • What - You need to be able to tell them what it is that they will be doing. It is often good to adapt to the style person. They may prefer an email of the exact list of items to do (Think cool blue), or maybe just telling them would suffice (Think fiery red). In the end you need to get the message across to them clearly, in any way that suits them!

  5. Verify that they understand their assignment & expectations
    Ask & talk to them what is their understanding of the task you have just delegated to them. Getting them to say it back to you is a good way for you to achieve this

  6. Identify any support that they might need
    Together with the team, you can evaluate what support they will need from them. The person should also have the right to say what they require in order to complete the task.

The SMARTER approach

Another quick check list that you can use is the SMARTER acronym. This stands for the following:

  • S - Specific (Clear & precise)
  • M - Measurable (How do you know if the task was successful?)
  • A - Agreed (You both agree to the task)
  • R - Realistic (You can do the work in the time required)
  • T - Timebound (There is a deadline)
  • E - Ethical & Energizing (Give tasks that can make them grow & don't use people as a pawn)
  • R - Recorded (Done in writing)

Things to remember

One other important aspect is the reviews. You need to setup a consistent meeting, say every week or so, to review and go over their work. This avoids the situation where you are constantly asking if the work is done yet as you can get a sense of where they are in the task.

Failure to deliver is also another topic that needs to be discussed. You need to be open & honest as to what may happen if the task is completed in the way you agreed to above. Possible outcomes could be:

  • Giving the task to someone else
  • Assisting them
  • Sending them on training

It should not always be a blame session, but also an opportunity to help them in achieving their goal.

Lastly, when delegating tasks you should also try to balance out the mundane and exciting tasks, so that no one person gets all the interesting tasks. If this is not done, friction can occur between people and some people may be seen to be favoured more.

So that wraps up this topic. If you have any questions or comments, just leave them below.

Until next time...keep learning!

Mauro Da Silva

Learning everyday about software development, leadership & self improvement

South Africa