I’ve had the privilege of working with numerous business coaching clients over the past year. Each with their own amazing strengths in regards to running, growing and managing a business. I’ve also had my own first-hand experience when it comes to the management aspect of a growing small business. Each business coaching client I’ve worked with has their own management style. From the benevolent dictator, the everything is a burning fire manager, the conspiracy theorist (or paranoid for the sake of being paranoid), and even the best buddy “let’s get a beer after work” type. Studying the various types of management styles of management has proven that each truly does have a unique strength when compared to another, but at their core, they all have one important strength that must present in order to succeed. The lesson I learned this week is actually a principle that I’ve been familiar with for quite some time now; however, I learned just how important the consistent application of this idea is after a few business coaching experiences this week.
The principle is simple: Delegation + Due Dates + Continued Follow Up = Completion of Tasks. It seems simple enough, right? Now I know what you’re thinking, “Jason, we didn’t come here for math. We also didn’t ask for your opinion on management tips. As a matter of fact, why do you always pretend to know what we’re thinking and write us in such a condescending tone?”. Well, dear reader, that has a two-part answer. Answer part one: In a strange way, I do know what you’re thinking because I too have worn the manager hat and have had to deal with others giving me advice on how to improve my management style. I’ve also sought new knowledge and strategies in order to increase my strengths daily when it comes to growing and inspiring a team. Answer part 2: I just so happen to possess the power of clairvoyance. It’s just one of the many perks that come from being bitten by a radioactive homeless man. That brings me to another important lesson I learned this week. Stay away from radioactive homeless men…
All joking aside, the art of delegation and understanding how to truly master and practice this idea on a daily basis is mission-critical. I always thought I was a pro when it came to multi-tasking back in my manager days. I was mister take on all tasks because nobody can do it as well as I can. I think we’ve all met that manager before. You know, the guy that has a to-do list the size of a bible (And I’m talking Old Testament), who constantly looks stressed and can’t remember a conversation that you just had with him because he has about 20,000 other things on his mind. Well that was me until I learned how to properly delegate. I started taking a look at everything I needed to accomplish and deciding what was my highest and best use, and then what items I could assign to a team member for completion.
The principle is simple: Delegation + Due Dates + Continued Follow Up = Completion of Tasks.
At first glance, it looked like everything was going to be smooth sailing. I was freeing up time to get important tasks done, while also ensuring all other items were going to meet their deadlines. However, I was forgetting the most important aspect of delegating responsibilities. I was forgetting to follow up. At the end of the week, I could confidently say that my items were completed, but the items I had assigned were still not complete. I had focused so much telling people what to do and assuming it would get done, I never actually showed them what I needed to be accomplished or followed up to make certain the task was making progress. Everybody needs accountability in order to be diligent. That is why it was so important for me to learn the difference between delegation and abdication.
Delegation is defined as the assignment of any authority to another person to carry out a specific task. All the while the person who delegated the actions or work is still accountable to the outcome of the delegated tasks. What does that mean exactly? It means that if I am going to delegate a task, I am still responsible for its completion. Which takes me back to the ever so important delegation equation. Step one, tell your employee what needs to get done. Step two, give them a due date so that they know when it has to be completed. Step three, follow up… FOLLOW up… FOLLOW UP. If step three is skipped, that is when drifting occurs and Items start to get skipped altogether. Remember when I said the person that delegates a task is still responsible for the outcome? Well, the follow-up portion of the delegation equation will ensure that you are responsible for a successful outcome rather than being responsible for another incomplete task. If the first three steps are executed properly then you’ll happily find yourself at step four of the equation, the sweet sweet completion of tasks.
Step one, tell your employee what needs to get done. Step two, give them a due date so that they know when it has to be completed. Step three, follow up… FOLLOW up… FOLLOW UP.
As I learned from the error of my ways I had identified my problem areas. Before I was actually delegating properly I was merely abdicating. The problem was that I did not know what that meant. Abdication is defined as renouncing or retiring authority or responsibility. In terms or assigning action items to my business coaching clients or giving my team tasks to complete, that meant simply telling them what to do and hoping it got done. Abdicating can seem like the easiest path since you’re giving your authority to someone else and can blame them when the task is not completed. However, this is the real world and if I am still the person assigning an action, it is still on me if the action is not completed. If I lack the ability to follow up on a consistent basis then I am the only one to blame for failures.
Sometimes the lessons you have to learn in order to improve are not easy. But I’ve learned that knowledge and constant improvement feel a lot better than pride. At the end of the day, I feel more confident having learned how to be a more diligent delegator and have learned the pain of being the abdicating A-hole. Just remember the simple delegation equation and save yourself from that pain: Delegation + Due Dates + Continued Follow Up = Completion of Tasks.