Define the broader goal of the delegated task and how it fits into your company mission. Do not define how to do the task. Instead, explain why it needs to be done and let the employee decide how to complete it. The “why,” or intended results, are more important than detailing the process, Gorman says. Downing recommends describing the consequences of failure of that task to the company and its mission.
Ask Yourself ...
During the early stages of delegation, before employees come to him with questions, consultant Mike Gorman tells his staff to first work through the problem themselves by asking these four questions.
1. What is the problem? 2. What is the cause of the problem?
3. What are all of the possible solutions?
4. What is the best solution?
After they do that, they call him to explain the problem and their recommended solution. Once they have done this four or five times, he tells them they no longer need to call him and can work through any future problems and act on their conclusions. “Empower them to make decisions by proving to them that they are right time after time,” Gorman says.
Provide the resources employees need to complete tasks. “It’s not always money — sometimes it’s people and equipment,” Boggs says. Provide training so they have or can build the skills needed to complete the tasks. The employees you are delegating to should champion the tasks, but they should pull in other employees as needed.
Some owners don’t delegate because they worry about overwhelming busy employees. If they are overwhelmed, Downing says, meet with them to “de-select” items on their list to focus on the most important tasks.
Define their decision-making authority within the company structure. Mark IV Builders uses a decision tree to help employees understand authority levels. Owner Mark Scott is the root, production manager Andy Hannan is the trunk, the branches are the superintendents, and the leaves are the carpenters and laborers.
It’s not worth delegating a task if the employee is constantly coming to you to make the decisions, Boggs says. Ask employees to go through a decision-making matrix (see sidebar at left). Once they do that, they should call the owner, define the problem, and offer a solution. This call should not be made in front of the homeowner. The lead carpenter or owner can then present this problem/solution to the homeowner, Gorman says, which helps build the homeowner’s confidence in the company. Don’t allow the employee to be paralyzed by the prospect of making a decision. “There is no such thing as a perfect decision,” Boggs says. “If it doesn’t turn out, go through the process again.”