Where delegation goes wrong

How can I delegate anything when no one else does it as I do?

This might be the most common question I get about process and change management. Remember last week when I told you that you might be the problem?

Here is a common example: doing the dishes. Because of schedules, I handle doing the dishes. You can say that this is my task. On the rare days that my husband is off from work, he’ll pitch in and do them instead. You can say that the task is delegated to him on those days.

Great to have someone to help, right? Except that his process isn’t exactly the same as mine. When I load the dishes into the dishwasher my goal is to maximize every square centimeter of space. Dishes get placed in a very particular, symmetrical, and orderly way. When he does the dishes, he does not do this. He loads the dishes into the dishwasher wherever they fit. He doesn’t take the painstaking time that I do arrange and rearrange dishes.

Does that mean he’s doing it wrong? Not at all. Why? Because he gets the same result when he does it his way. The dishes get cleaned.

Why am I prattling on about how the dishes get cleaned in my house? Because it is an example of how setting expectations can either blow up your night or result in a clean kitchen. I can choose to only ever do it my way. Or, I can let it go, trust him, and be happy that it’s done.

*My husband agreed to let me share this anecdote in the newsletter

You’re saying to yourself – that’s not the same as delegating to team members. Isn’t it? At the end of the day, you’re asking someone to follow a process that you have outlined. You’re asking someone to complete a task and get the same result that you get.

Let’s say you’ve tasked someone with creating an end-of-month report. They put a report together and you’re not satisfied with the result. So you take the task back and redo it in a way that you’re happy with.

Where could this have gone wrong and what are some potential solutions?

  • Did I set correct expectations of what I wanted?
  • Did I show examples?
  • Did I offer to answer questions along the way or did I say “do it”?
  • Did I outline the steps to completion?
  • Did I show the person where I wasn’t happy with the end product and walk them through how to fix it?

Did you notice something? All the questions are about what I did or didn’t do. Not the other person. Before you assume the other person can’t do it you need to stop and ask yourself what you contributed.

Will you run into cases where someone cannot perform the task as asked? Yes. But, that’s a topic for a different newsletter. Start with your responsibilities first and work from there. Good delegation takes work from both parties.

Successful delegation leads to successful change management. As much as we want to believe we can do it all on our own, that is rarely the case. Getting your team to help can be empowering and freeing for you, and them.

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