Secrets of a Brighter Workplace


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How To Ensure Successful Delegation Of Work

Sharing the recipe

Why is it work you’ve delegated never seems to get done in the way you want it done?

Even the simplest task, that you could do in your sleep, is fluffed in some way: a deadline missed, a customer ignored, a team meeting mishandled?

Arrrrgh! It’s so frustrating! And takes up so much of your time.

And more importantly, it can damage customer relationships and have a real impact on the bottom line.

Is the answer to just do everything yourself?

Of course not. There is a solution. One that will:

  • ensure your expectations are met
  • help improve processes
  • empower your team.

Everyone does things differently

We all have our own approach to tasks, based on our experience (or lack of it), our style, our personality.

Which is fine, for the most part, if the right result is achieved in the end.

The problem comes when tasks you’ve delegated are not done to your standards.

This can be a particular issue for business owners whose very success is built on their way of doing things. Their style. Their knowledge and expertise.

Their customers have come to expect things to be done in a certain way. If someone else deals with them differently, they can feel short-changed. As if the customer experience has been diluted.

And it can be an issue too for team managers. Perhaps they’ve developed a way of doing things, a process that works. That becomes a process that doesn’t work when someone else gets their hands on it. 

If there is a task, a piece of work, a method of dealing with customers that’s important to you, that needs to be done in a certain way in order to achieve the right results – then there’s only one thing you can do to make sure it’s done the way you want it to be done:

Create a process map.

Sounds tedious and time-consuming? It doesn’t have to be. And it can make a real difference to how well projects are delivered, how well customers are dealt with and how well you sleep at night.

How a process map helps everyone deliver to your standards

Think of your way of doing things as your secret sauce. A formula you’ve developed over many years, that you’ve tweaked multiple times, but that now you could produce without even thinking about it.

Even if you gave someone all the ingredients to your sauce, they’re not going to produce exactly the same dish without clear instructions and a little guidance. A recipe, in other words.

Your process map is, essentially, your recipe. Having it written down in a clear and easy to understand way means there’s less chance of misinterpretation.

It doesn’t have to be a fancy flow-chart or a complicated spreadsheet. It could just be a series of jotted-down steps on a notepad. It’s writing it down that’s important.

That’s because, our way of doing something, if it’s something we’ve done many times, becomes subconscious. It becomes routine, something we could do with our eyes closed.

By writing it down, you’re helping to drag that subconscious routine to the conscious part of your brain. You have to think through each and every step. And by making a note of each step, you’re giving much clearer instructions to your team member.

How process mapping helps improve standards

Just because your way of doing things works for you, doesn’t mean it couldn’t be improved.

You may have become wedded to an approach, a system, that isn’t actually the most efficient or effective way of delivering that task.

Delegating that task to others may reveal a better way of doing things.

But you won’t know that unless you’ve got it written down. Because then you’ve got something to review and evaluate – together.

Process-mapping provides a space for other people to offer ideas on how things might be improved.

How process mapping helps empower your team

When you process map a task, you may well discover that while there are aspects which are essential, other elements may be more open to the discretion of whoever is delivering that task.

For instance, when you’re struggling to find something in a supermarket, you can be fairly confident that if you ask any member of staff they will help. How they do that – do they take you to it, point you in the right direction, give you an aisle number – may differ, but their friendly, helpful attitude is consistent. Whether they’re a store manager, a shelf-stacker or floor cleaner.

The supermarket has set out a core standard of friendliness, approachability and helpfulness without dictating exactly how staff should deal with a customer query.

Process-mapping is about documenting the process without dictating every step, every interaction. That enables your team to bring their style, their personality, their intelligence to the task while still fulfilling its core requirements. And you can complement it with checklists to help them.

Introducing quality assurance

Once you have a process map in place, you can do some quality assurance.

This doesn’t have to be anything very formal. Just check in with people early, often and regularly on how they’re doing with the task or project you’ve delegated.

Be careful not to micromanage, of course. You don’t have to check up on every little thing, just make sure everyone knows they’re on the right lines. And if they’re not, what they should be doing.

And if they’re not doing what they should be doing, revisit your instructions, ensure you were clear about what you wanted and provide an alternative behaviour rather than criticising their wrongdoing. E.g. ‘Instead of telling a customer “I don’t know, I’ll ask my manager to phone you”, it is better to say “I don’t know but I’ll find out and call you back in one hour.”

Make it ok to make mistakes. People learn from mistakes – with support. But if they’re afraid of making mistakes, they’ll still make them, it’s just that you won’t know about it until it’s too late.

And keep practising quality checking long-term. It will provide valuable opportunities for feedback, rewarding and recognising good practice and motivating longer-serving employees.

Finding the time to process map

Does all this feel a bit infeasible? After all, the reason you need to delegate a task in the first place is because you don’t have enough time to do it yourself.

The thing is, it’s like when a work experience student comes into the office. You don’t have time to show them how the client management system works. So they sit there twiddling their thumbs or making tea and you end up doing the straight-forward customer follow-up calls that they could be doing for you!

People won’t know how to deliver a task to your standards unless you have a process they can follow and you have a way to check that that process is being followed.

And I promise, the time spent will be well worth it when your team is delivering delegated work that meets your high standards! And you can get on with what you’re meant to be doing!

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