The Art of Delegating - or Five Steps to Curtailing your Control Freak

At a recent wrap up meeting for a fundraiser, the president told everyone that we needed to work smarter.

“This year’s event was just TOO exhausting,” she said. “We had too many weeks of planning and hard work, too many sleepless nights from stress, and far too many personal out-of-pocket expenses.”

We all looked at each other, confused. Our experience had been quite pleasant. We had volunteered at the event and then gotten home in plenty of time to catch Downton Abbey.

The wearied president was adamant, “We need to find a better way.”

She was right. We needed to get her to start delegating before she collapsed from exhaustion.

Making the Leap

I’m as much of a control freak as the next person. Handing things over to someone else doesn’t just feel like losing control, it is. And it’s a leap of faith that the person you handed critical duties will successfully follow through.

That leap of faith, however, can and should be an educated one. I was once delegated the job of driving Japanese foreign exchange students around Seattle. Had the leader only asked me how well I drove in Seattle, if I was comfortable parking, and if I’d ever driven a van before, she could have deduced the accident in the parking garage was inevitable . . . and delegated the job to someone else. 

But I digress. There are solid, bottom line reasons for handing over some of the responsibilities to others:

  • You save time
  • You achieve more
  • You avoid burnout
  • You gain respect from your teammates for trusting them
  • Your team members build self respect 
  • Your team becomes more efficient
  • It builds better communication
  • It creates people retention
  • . . . need I go on?

Five steps to Delegation

Delegating isn’t hard. It just takes some practice to subdue our inner “Control Freak”.

The video, A Leader's Guide to Delegating, () breaks it down into these five steps:

1. Analyze the Task: Get specific about what needs to be done to achieve the goal, including setting a deadline and sizing up resources.

2. Choose the Right Delegatee: The right candidate should be highly motivated and possess the needed skills for the assignment.

3. Assign the Task: Give clear and detailed instructions on desired outcomes.

4. Execute the Task: During the task, ensure that other team members are ready to support him/her by communicating the assignment and the authority given.

5. Conduct Regular Feedback Sessions: Monitor issues so they don't become problems, and give the person opportunities to ask questions about the assignment.

I’m off to talk to my fundraising president about delegating. My goal is to get her to delegate some of her responsibilities to me—anything but driving in Seattle.

Diane Mettler has been a manager for nearly 20 years. She's also a freelance writer and editor—with hundreds of her articles published in a variety of magazines—and teaches writing at the University of Washington.