By Sunshine M. Barber
Learning the Ropes of Delegation and Accountability
“When you delegate work to a member of the team, your job is to clearly frame success and describe the objectives.”
Steven Sinofsky, former Microsoft executive
Many new managers struggle with delegation and accountability. Not only are they two of the hardest skills for first-time managers to master, but they need to be developed in tandem. You’re not going to be comfortable delegating important tasks without building in strategies for holding others accountable.
Because you’re busy! But seriously…to be highly productive as a manager, you have to recognize that you can’t do everything yourself. This can be particularly difficult if you’ve been recently promoted to a management role after having been successful as an individual contributor on the team. When this happens, it can be hard to let go of old duties and responsibilities, but it’s imperative that you hand off tasks so that you can focus on your new responsibilities.
If you’ve been hired directly into a management role, you may feel pressure to take on more responsibilities than you can manage alone because you’re new and want to impress. If that happens, remember that you can remain accountable for making sure everything gets done without having to perform all the work yourself. That’s what delegation is all about!
Five Questions to Support Accountability
Setting expectations for accountability should begin as soon as a task or responsibility is delegated. Each time you delegate, ask your colleague the following questions:
1. Do you understand what you’re responsible for accomplishing?
This is especially important when delegating tasks that used to be yours because what seems obvious to you might be news to someone else. And when you’re discussing WHAT needs to be accomplished, be careful not to dictate HOW it should be accomplished. That’s the other person’s call now.
2. Who will you work with to accomplish this task?
This question will help set an expectation that you don’t need to be consulted at every bump in the road. Save yourself additional time in the long run by being clear regarding the scope of the task, other stakeholders who should be consulted and the resources available.
3. What obstacles do you anticipate, and how will you move past them?
Once they understand their task, help them think broadly about the project and make a plan to address potential problems. Regular check-ins with you about their progress are a good strategy to help alleviate anxiety for both of you, when a task is newly delegated.
4. How will you hold yourself accountable for meeting deadlines?
To get them thinking about prioritization and time management, address how the new task fits in with their other responsibilities, whether or not the deadlines are flexible, and who needs to be notified if deadlines will not be met.
5. What does success look like here, and how will we know that you’ve achieved it?
Set expectations for the desired end-result and introduce a reporting structure, whether it’s weekly review in a one-on-one meeting, checking off a task in your project management software or an email alert to you.
Keep the conversation going! Is the task you delegated a one-time project, or is it going to be a recurring responsibility? Should it be added to your employee’s job duties? Would training for new skills be helpful?
As you get more practice with delegation and accountability, you might even find that you finally have enough time to develop a RACI chart to keep you and your team on track!
Looking for more opportunities to improve your management skills?
If you are trying to up-skill and need training options, check out the courses in the Business Management Certificate Program. They can be taken in a group to earn a certificate, or you can just take the classes that focus on the skills you need to develop. There’s even a class specifically for Delegation and Accountability.
If you are passionate about helping your team and want some more in-depth exposure to coaching tactics, consider Coaching as a Leadership Strategy, a one-day course in the Leadership Academy Certificate Series. If you are interested in engaging one of the Center for Professional Education’s coaches to work with you or your team, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Sunshine M. Barber is a member of the marketing team at Extended Education Ventures with 10+ years of experience in higher education marketing. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin.
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