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Delegate Effectively To Avoid Surprises

delegation kw
Delegate Effectively To Avoid Surprises

I spend more and more time training people how to delegate effectively these days. Delegation used to be just one small part of a day's Time Management training but over the years I've discovered that it's a much bigger topic than I originally thought.

At a very high level delegation is simply sharing work out. It is about getting work off your desk onto someone else's. And sometimes you just need to do this to get work done.


Bring Down The Government

That's usually when you're in Quadrant 1 of the Time Management Matrix and have something urgent and important to complete sharpish. So you quickly divide the workload up and 'delegate' it to others.

But that really is the least impressive and least effective element of delegation. Over the years I've come to label that type of delegation simply as 'tasking' because all it does is distribute tasks.

Those tasks are usually relatively menial work that anyone can do and simply need completing pronto. It's work that won't develop anyone, it won't help them to develop or increase their skills. The danger is that many of us have this as our go to understanding of delegation and never really move onto the more constructive side.


They Don't Speak For Us

The really good side of delegation is where you take work that needs doing and give it to someone else but in this case the work stretches them.

You delegate like this when you're not under pressure yourself, when you've had time to consider what other staff or colleagues need in order to develop. When you're actively trying to grow other people and your organisation.

If you delegate effectively, the work, and how it is allocated, will allow the people to develop autonomy, confidence and skills. They will enhance their experiences and create trust for themselves and for others.

There's a lot that needs to be considered to achieve this and I go into it in a great detail in my training. One thing that needs to be implemented when you delegate effectively is The Radiohead Rule.

Yep, we've had the Meatloaf Triangle, The Yazoo Onion and now we're on to the Radiohead Rule. I didn't make this one up, but you'll see why I love it and why it is so important for effective delegation. 


Let Down

On a course I delivered a few years ago a company director objected to the concept of empowering delegation. He said it was a waste of time and energy and that after a nasty experience he now avoids doing it.

"I delegated a huge project once to an employee and he messed up so badly. He said it was all going fine but the reality was he left it all to the last minute and then cried off sick. I had to work three weekends in a row to fix it. Never again. Delegation doesn't work."

That's pretty sad. If he had implemented The Radiohead Rule this would not have happened.


No Surprises

Radiohead were, and probably still are, one of the biggest bands around. They developed from what appeared to be a fairly tame identikit indie rock group with an underwhelming debut album in 1992, to very quickly conquering the world on the back of two outstanding albums, The Bends and OK Computer in 1994 and 1997.

One of their biggest singles was No Surprises from 1998 and it is this song that provides the blueprint for the Radiohead Rule.

The chorus is a continued refrain, pleading for "No alarms and no surprises, please" and very simply this is what you want when you're delegating; no alarms and no surprises. Please!

When you hand over a job and you entrust it to someone else there should be no alarms and no surprises coming your way. You don't want to be nearing a deadline and to suddenly discover that the project is way behind schedule.

These are alarms and surprises and if they occur then it is your fault. It is your fault because you didn't put the Radiohead Rule into place.


I'll Take A Quiet Life

The Rule is easy to understand but also very easy not to bother with. Like the company director on my training course who hadn't bothered to put a safety net in place. The Radiohead Rule is a safety net. There are loads of things you can do to ensure the rule is in effect but here are just two that will go a long way.

In order to implement the Radiohead Rule and ensure that there are no alarms and no surprises when you delegate you'll need to establish agreed metrics and regular follow up dates.

At the minimum you should:

  1. agree on weekly milestones with clear, measurable, objective targets
  2. put follow up dates in the diary to check progress on agreed actions

It doesn't have to be onerous lengthy meetings to double check every element of the project you've handed over, but at the same time it has to be more than a casual exchange in the entrance lobby:

"How's project X going?"

"Fine, thanks"

"That's great then."

If that's what you call a follow up then you've only got yourselves to blame if your fat labrador craps on your desk.


High And Dry

Yes, that's more than a bit crude (sorry!) but hopefully memorable so that if you're doing this and considering that you've cracked delegation, then you'll stop doing it, and take more responsibility.

You can't risk things falling down the cracks and being left, ahem, high and dry with a huge problem and not enough time to fix it. When that happens, which it does only too often, people can take the wrong learning from it and tell themselves that delegation doesn't work.

You don't want to end up micromanaging or delivering what's known as phantom empowerment (where you offer someone ownership over a task only to reclaim it for yourself at the slightest concern) but you do want to know that things are progressing steadily and on schedule. No alarms and no surprises right?!


Everything In Its Right Place

This weekend have a think about what types of things you delegate. Simply look around the house at the different chores that need doing. Are they all being done? Who is responsible for each of them? Is the Radiohead Rule in place? And who is responsible for putting the Radiohead Rule in place? Is it you? You know what to do!

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