Right Attitudes

Effective Delegation: Delegate Outcomes, Not Just Tasks

Delegating Outcomes

Delegation, the art of getting things done through other people, is one of the key building blocks of effective management. Managers who cannot delegate effectively tend to lack the time for their key responsibilities and often fail to manage their team well.

When managers ask a team member to do something, they usually describe the tasks in terms of specific methods/actions. Executive coach Barry Zweibel describes the pitfalls of this common approach.

When we delegate tasks–that is [discuss] assignments in terms of processes or steps to take–we run the risk of people doing exactly what we say, but still not getting the job done as we hoped. But if we delegate desired outcomes–that is what we want to result from the assignment–it’s more likely that that’s what will be accomplished.

Barry presents three examples:

  1. When a customer complaint needs to be addressed, instead of “Here, go talk to this person,” try, “Here, go make this customer happy again.”
  2. When a vendor order needs to be expedited, instead of “Here, go track this order,” try, “Here, go insure the successful – and timely – delivery of this order.”
  3. When recent sales figures are below expectations, instead of “Here, go research this report,” try, “Here, go determine what needs to be done to get these numbers back on track.”

Call for Action

Clearly, by delegating outcomes–with the authority and resources needed,–you enhance a team member’s responsibility to get the job done.

The key to effective delegation is to approach delegation as an offer to present to a team member, not a demand to be made. Delegating outcomes–not just tasks–helps managers skillfully present assignments to their team members and empowers them to get the job done.