Even if you're a senior professional, there are times when things get delegated to you. Here's what you can learn from being on the receiving end of this process, in order to make yourself a better delegator.
- Even if you're a senior professional, there are times when things get delegated to you. That can be a colossal hassle if it's not done well because it's just adding to the burden of the tasks you already have to accomplish but sometimes, occasionally, having something delegated to you can actually be exciting or fulfilling. Think about the times when you've been sent to a high stakes meeting because your boss can't be there and you get to be in the middle of the action or you get to take the lead on an interesting, innovative project and really own it. That's when delegation can become a win-win even for the person being delegated to.
It turns out we can learn a lot about how to become better delegators by thinking back to the times when we've been on the receiving end. So what does delegation done well really look like? First and hopefully you've experienced this in the past, it's when someone explains the full context and meaning behind their request. It's not just annoying when someone hands you something and says, hey, can you write up this report by Friday without any further explanation, it's a little imperious and they're unlikely to get your best work because you don't understand exactly why you're doing it and so you'll probably miss some nuances but it's also a missed opportunity to convey meaning and purpose.
What if that person were to say to you instead I have a favor to ask, there's a major meeting on Friday and we need to present a writeup of our findings, I just don't have time to do it because I'm tied up on another project but it's a big opportunity to help get us approval to move forward with a significant new initiative, could you help? All of a sudden, you're not just a toady doing a boring task they're too good for. Instead, you're in the thick of a major strategic development and that feels different. Explaining context is everything.
Second, you've probably experienced that the best delegators have framed the ask to emphasize the benefit to you. Now, of course, there's a benefit to them. They don't have to do the work, you do but what is in it for you? If they take the time to explain how the task is helpful to your professional development, that can make all the difference in terms of your attitude and your excitement level around the project. For instance, they might say, if this project gets approved, it's going to be a big deal for our department. Having you write this memo will help you understand the background so we can deploy you immediately to get involved or I know you said you're interested in design and want to do more of it.
I don't have time to create the presentation deck and thought it could be an opportunity for you to put some of your ideas into practice. That makes it far more meaningful. Finally, it always feels a little hollow to work hard on something and have it just ignored or met with silence. It feels like it didn't matter. It was just busy work. When you've been delegated to, odds are, what's made it a good experience is getting targeted rapid feedback. You don't want to hear two months later that the client liked it or didn't like it. You want to hear specific comments. The graph on slide seven was incredibly convincing in real time or as close as possible to it so you can learn and improve.
If you're a basketball player, you want the coach to help you fix your free throw while you're doing it, not 10 days later when you've forgotten what you were even doing. The same applies in the workplace. Thinking back to when we've had tasks delegated to us enables us to have a better perspective about how to get others on board and feel good about assisting us in our time of need.