Managing Delegated Work

The skill in delegating work comes after you have delegated it

Now you have delegated work you need to make sure it gets done. Just because you have delegated the work does not mean it will automatically get done how or when you want to.

Follow these five steps to help you manage your delegated work more effectively:

  1. Assign the task to one person.Don’t assign the task to multiple people, just one person who will be responsible. Get them to confirm that they understand the assignment and have accepted responsibility for it.  A good way of doing this is to ask them to share with you what they understand the assignment is, and to ask them, explicitly, if they will be responsible for this. Until this is done, the hand-off is not complete.
  2. Articulate a specific outcome. In other words, what exactly are you expecting the other person to deliver to you or for you? I always start the assignment with a verb (e.g., “Call,” “Notify,” “Write,” “Order,” etc.) and finish it with an objective “deliverable” (such as a report, email list, agenda, meeting etcetera). You have to be able to tell whether the task was completed as assigned.
  3. Include your delivery timetable. Some projects have hard fast deadlines. For example, I might tell someone I need a task done by “the close of business on Friday.” Others are not as time sensitive. I might say I need a task done, “anytime in the next two weeks.” Regardless, you have to express your expectations and be clear.
  4. Make yourself available for consultation. You want to be a resource, but you don’t want to micro-manage the other person. The best way to do this is to stay focused on the outcome rather than the process. I personally don’t care how the other person gets the job done (assuming it is ethical); I only care about the end-result.
  5. Track the delegated task on a to-do list. This is crucial. Not everyone you delegate to will have a good task management system in place. Perhaps those directly under your supervision will—because you trained them—but what about the others?

Doing this will save you time, effort and make you more effective when delegating.

Ways to Track Delegated Assignments:

  1. Use a page in your journal. This is the simplest, most low-tech solution. In the first column, note the date you made the assignment. In the second column, note the first name of the person to whom you delegated the task, then the task itself. In the third column, note the due date (if any). I don’t use due dates unless a specific date is mission-critical.
  2. Use Outlook, Entourage, or Mail folders.Many of the assignments delegates happen via email. If you make an assignment in a meeting, you follow-up with an email confirmation. Regardless, an easy way to keep track of these assignments is simply to drag a copy of the sent message to a “Waiting For” folder. If you need to check in on the status of a project, you can forward the original message to the person you delegated it to as a reminder of the assignment, and ask them for a progress report. When the task is complete, you can delete the message from the folder.
  3. Use Outlook, Entourage, or Mail tasks. This kicks the level of automation up a notch. It puts your delegated tasks in the same spot that all of your other to-do lists are, so you will be more likely to review them. If you follow David Allen’s methodology as recommended in Getting Things Done (a.k.a., “GTD”), you can set up a “@Waiting For” task category. In the Task field itself, you type the name of the person, a dash, the assignment, another dash, and the date you made the assignment. For example:
Category Task Due Date
@Waiting For Lindsey – Notify Andy Andrews contest winners – 7/1 7/6/2010
@Waiting For Vicki – Renew my Admiral’s Club Membership – 7/7 8/1/2010
@Waiting For David – Review Jesse Sparks book proposal – 7/6

If you want to explore this methodology in greater depth, you can buy one of David Allen’s Setup Guides.

4. Use a dedicated task manager.

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