I always considered myself a good delegator.  I received compliments from my staff on delegating assignments to them and letting them do the work their way, while focusing on the results.  Therefore it came as somewhat of a surprise recently when I realized I was doing a terrible job delegating work to my new assistant. 

For the first time in my 20 years at AT&T I now have an Administrative Assistant.  After 20 years you get used to handling many “little things” on your own – managing your calendar, making travel reservations, filing expense reports, planning team building events and so on.   So it was just natural to keep doing those things on my own – natural, but wrong.

With all my new duties time is more precious than ever and I’m taking a whole new look at how I am doing things to decide what really more I can strip away.  Administrative tasks is one area ripe for change so I am re-learning all of those lessons about proper delegation.

First, you have to realize the benefits of delegation don’t come from the first time you delegate something.  In fact, it probably will take more time initially then if you didn’t delegate.  You have to teach the person what you want and in some cases how to do it.  When time is short this can be especially hard to swallow, but you have to focus on the long-term benefit of the time you will gain back in the days, weeks and months ahead once a task is successfully delegated.

Second, you have to be willing to let go of details in how something is done that really don’t matter.  Whenever you delegate something it will not be done exactly the way you used to do it.  The key is to decide what results or outcomes matter and then don’t worry about the rest.  There is a word for people who can’t handle this part of delegation correctly – micromanager.   If you worry about every detail, you cause two problems.  One, you end up saving no time which is one of the reasons you delegating something in the first place and two, you drive you staff nuts and then away which means you are constantly having to teach someone new and the vicious cycle continues.

The third lesson of delegation is to listen.  Maybe your staff has a better idea on how to do something.  Maybe they will even question why something is being done in the first place.  Whatever it is, as the delegator, you have to listen. Yes, you have been doing the task for a while and know how to do it in your sleep, but maybe that is the exact problem.  You’ve been asleep while things have changed.  The ability to generate new ideas on how to get something done is the hidden gem of delegation, but it will never happen if you don’t listen.

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