Many business owners understand that passing responsibilities to employees is a must if the company is going to grow or if the owner is to have a life outside the business. Why then do so many of us do it so poorly? Psychologist and consultant Donna M. Genett’s book, If You Want It Done Right, You Don’t Have to Do It Yourself! just might help us perfect the art of delegating. To demonstrate her six principles of delegating, Genett uses an easy-to-read parable style to compare the experiences of two cousins who are moving up the corporate ladder.

1. Prepare. It’s the delegator’s — not the employee’s — job to make the process work. Before even discussing a project or task with an employee, the manager should understand and outline project goals, expectations, and end results. The manager also must be clear about where and when room for creativity exists.

2. Clearly define the task. To be sure that the employee understands, ask him or her to repeat the information back to you. Inevitably, you’ll find gaps that need to be filled. Or you might have to modify your teaching style for a particular person. It takes time to go through this step but it’s insurance that the project will be done right.

3. Be clear about time. Don’t assume that the employee knows when you want it done by. Communicate deadlines clearly so employees can react accordingly.

4. Define authority. This is a sticking point with many managers because they may believe that delegating a task means a total handoff. But that doesn’t have to be the case. According to Genett, three main levels of authority can be used depending on the project and the person:

  • Recommend. The employee researches and narrows the options, and then makes recommendations on the best direction to take.

  • Inform and initiate. The employee researches, explains the best course of action, then initiates his or her selection.

  • Act. Managers use this level when they are totally confident of someone’s capabilities and the risks are minimal.

5. Identify checkpoints. Many managers don’t want to be seen micromanaging, so they avoid progress reviews. But Genett says that checkups give both parties an opportunity to clarify the project and to ask questions before something goes off track. She recommends scheduling meetings frequently at first and then tapering off.

6. Debrief. Do this after every project to see what went right, what went wrong, how the process can be improved, and what was learned.

Genett suggests the system works both ways. If their manager delegates poorly, employees can stop the process and ask for the critical details they need. The more employees step into the process, the more the company as a whole will benefit.

—Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage, helping remodelers build consistently profitable companies.; 301.490.5620.