Recently, I wrote about time management and the need to stop putting out fires. Effective delegation can be a springboard to success both for you as CIO and the people to whom you delegate, and can be a major time management tool for a busy executive.
First of all, delegating appropriate tasks simply allows you to accomplish more. You leverage your time and it frees you to work on tasks that no one else can do. Secondly, delegating allows you to work on the bigger picture rather than getting bogged down in day-to-day routine tasks. And finally, effective delegation allows you to develop people by expanding their expertise, their independence, and their areas of responsibility.
But delegating poorly can lead to trouble. There's nothing worse than delegating a task and having it done wrong, done poorly, or worse, not done at all. Here are the three keys to master in order to delegate effectively:
Choose the right tasks to delegate
Clearly not all tasks are good candidates for delegation. A good rule of thumb is that you need to be cautious about delegating any task that requires judgment. Conversely, any task that does not involve judgment is generally a good candidate. It's not that the other person can't make a decision, but you are in the position you're in because someone trusts your judgment and ultimately the responsibility falls on your shoulders.
Select the right individual for the task, and ensure they have the appropriate tools and knowledge.
Choose the person whose talents match the skill set required by the task and ensure they are properly equipped. If you suspect they may not have what they need, make sure they know who to go to or where to find the proper information and/or tools.
Provide ongoing communication and create accountability.
In order to ensure that your deadline is met and the work is being done properly, it's important to be certain the other person fully understands the assignment. (Have them repeat it back to you.)
Additionally, check in on the progress of the assignment and hold them accountable to the deadline. Regardless of whether they "should" be on track or not, a missed deadline falls on your shoulders. You're the one who will ultimately feel the stress of and pay the price for a missed timeline. In addition, if you state that a task is important but then neglect to give it the attention it deserves, it reflects on your integrity. It demonstrates that you will say one thing but do another. Do what you say you will do and say what you mean to say.
But let's face it -- even with our best efforts, sometimes things still go wrong. A task is done incorrectly or a deadline is missed. What happens then? The first step is to understand why things went wrong. As a leader, the first place to look is in the mirror. You need to determine whether your instructions were, in fact, as clear as you thought they were. If not, then you know what to do next time you delegate. And the responsibility for causing and fixing the current mess up falls squarely on your shoulders.
If you were clear in your communication, then you need to have a discussion with the other person so you can properly assess the cause(s) of the breakdown. Did they lack the skills they needed and said they had? Did they allow less important tasks to take priority over yours? Did they get overwhelmed by their workload at the wrong time?
By identifying the cause of the problem, you can coach them how to handle the issue next time it happens. It becomes a perfect opportunity to help them grow. And because the problem was due to them and their skills, judgment, and/or communication, they still need to be held accountable for completing the task. Send them off to complete it on their own (or with your help) in a timely and accurate manner, checking in with you throughout the effort until it's completed.
Effective delegation will leverage your time and your efforts. It helps to develop your team, and makes them more valuable, more productive, and more loyal. If you want to boost your productivity as a CIO, spend more of your time on efforts that move you, your department, and your company forward, and less time on tasks that are administrative.