Published in “Project Times” website, March 1, 2016
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In today’s Amazon-impacted world, customers have higher expectations of rapid turnaround, 24/7 accessibility, and increased levels of service. These events have contributed to an information overloaded society.
Not only do we receive countless emails, texts, social media messages, marketing messages and the like, but we also are expected to be able to make sense of it all and execute projects successfully – on-time, on budget and on results. A tall order to be sure!
Survival seems challenging enough, let alone thriving in these sorts of conditions. In taking a step back from the details, it becomes clear that we must employ tools to increase our chances of success. And, of course, we’d like to make the process easier and clearer along the way. One option to achieve these goals is to delegate. Those who properly delegate will have more time to focus on critical priorities while keeping details moving in the right direction. A few tips that will help ensure success include:
- Choose wisely – One of the keys to delegating successfully is to select the “right” tasks to delegate. Delegating away your strengths rarely achieves success, and it does nothing for morale. Typically, delegating your areas of weakness can be a good approach; however, it is vital to take a few precautionary steps. Gain expert advice in surrounding yourself with strong project team members and supporters. Leverage those strengths of your team members that happen to coincide with your weaknesses. Don’t waste time delegating “C” items. Ignore them. Every action requires effort. Focus your efforts on what’s most important. Delegate the next set of priorities as you’ll want to make sure those get accomplished. Think about “C” items when all else is done.
- Empower – Don’t throw around the word empowerment lightly. It is the rare project manager who knows how to empower his/her team. It means you must start by being a great leader. Provide guidelines. Collaborate on goals. Address the hard issues. Encourage team members to try new ideas. Support them in their failures. Take responsibility for the problems and share successes. Give your project team the ability to make decisions within their guidelines with full knowledge that they’ll be supported no matter the result. Soon, your team members will feel empowered. Once they are empowered, delegation becomes more of a collaborative affair.
- Diversity – There are many different tasks required to ensure a successful outcome for a project team. In order to leverage your team members’ individual strengths while minimizing their weaknesses, you’ll need a diverse set of skills and people. Thus, you’ll have a much better chance of success in delegating the diverse types of tasks required if you have a broad set of skills in your team with a wide array of backgrounds. This will also stimulate ideas and debate which can encourage empowerment so long as the leader supports experimentation.
- Core Metrics – Undoubtedly, no matter how effective you are in delegating, it will fall apart without core metrics in place. Work with your team to determine which critical milestones should be monitored. Develop leading metrics that will raise a red flag if the project is veering off-track. Put effort into making sure that the metrics selected will provide warnings in advance if needed. Don’t have too many metrics which become burdensome to track; instead, select the “right” few that will be indicators of success. Agree upon them with your team upfront.
- Provide training & mentoring – In addition to delegating assignments, it is imperative that you take the time to accompany that task with the proper training and experiences to go with it. Mentoring can be valuable as well. Mentoring provides an example of someone who has “been there, done that” who is also an expert who is available for advice. By providing mentoring and/or helping your project team members find mentors in their area of expertise, you have, in effect, purchased insurance for your delegation. As anyone who has even been in an accident knows, insurance becomes invaluable when you need it.
Delegating project tasks has become a must in today’s new normal business environment. No leader has enough time to “do it all himself”, and no leader has the broad and diverse set of expertise required to be the ideal resource to handle every task. Instead, delegation provides not only a way to make sure the project gets done on time but it also adds to the quality of the result by leveraging team members’ strengths for the collective good.