What are the 3 keys for successful delegation?

“Never tell a person how to do things. Tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their ingenuity”
- Gen. George S Patton -

I am packing my bags again, going for my quarterly European trip, and this time I go with my son. It is great to be on the road, to meet new people, to establish new relationships and to strengthen old ones. It did not use to be like that, a few years ago I dreaded what would happen to my business when I was gone, I have tried different ways of delegation, but it seemed that none really worked out well.

My return day was always a day of fear and worry, would my store be in decent shape? Would clients call me to complain? Have orders been filled to the satisfactory of my clients?

Back then, I thought delegation started and ended with telling my friend what were my responsibilities and how I did them. I gave her the manual of my own store procedures. I gave her the store keys. I gave her all the necessary phone numbers and told her, “I will come back in a month, call me if there are any problems”. Guess what, she never called and when I came back there were always problems.

I know better now, I didn’t delegate my responsibilities to my friend. I abdicated my responsibilities and went away. Can you tell the difference between delegation and abdication?

In my mind, the main difference is not necessarily in the details about how to do things, or giving detailed phone numbers and contacts, it is not even being available for emergency.

I believe great delegation comprise of 3 key aspects:

  1. Plan & Expectations – Create detailed explanation of what needs to be done and what my expectations are. For example, I tell her that she will need to fulfill all orders on time, she will need to open the store between 8 am and 8 pm, and she will need to track future orders and inventory levels. It is important to clearly define how you will measure success.
  2. Reporting system – Develop a daily/weekly/monthly reporting system. A reporting system is a way for her to report back to me key indicators which will give me the ability to measure the business health. It can be weekly inventory numbers, weekly revenue numbers or daily key client complains (if any). Using this reporting system helps me and her to communicate on specific issues. It usually does not take more than a 5-10 minutes daily call (or sometimes an email will be enough). No abdication, Delegation with reporting!
  3. “What to do if” plan. It is not “Call me if there are problems”, but it is a short guide of things which may go wrong and what to do in case it happens. It can be what to do when a delivery is late, what to do when the refrigerator breaks, or what to do if a client wants to cancel an order that was already filled and shipped.

I am sure you guessed by now that these 3 keys apply to any type of task or work delegation. It enabled my business to not only function when I am away but to grow when I am away. I am happy to go to Europe. I know I have a great delegation plan. I know I don’t need to worry about my business. How do you delegate tasks?


About the Author: Liz

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