How to Delegate Effectively

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Dr. Mark Goulston recently took part in an interview about delegating effectively. So what does Dr. Goulston believe is the best way to delegate? He once heard a Senior Sales Manager with State Farm talk about a great approach, which he also advises. He notes that when you delegate something to someone, afterward, you don’t say, “Do you understand what I asked?” You say, “What do you understand that I asked you to do, and why is it important to us?”

Then you say, “In the event going forward, for any reason at all, if you’re not able to do what you said you’re committed to doing…what’s the best way for me to be with you if my only concern is getting you back on track?”

When they tell you what it is, they might say, “have a conversation one-on-one” or “Don’t raise your voice like I’m stupid or lazy.” Then you say, “What you just said is much too important for me to get wrong,” and then you repeat back what they said. They will feel you care about them and understand them. When you ask someone how to address them from their own point of view, it feels like the relationship becomes more open and less of a burden.

Are you a great listener—or a poor one?

When Dr. Goulston gives presentations on listening, he’ll say, “Raise your hand if you think you’re a good listener.” Most people will raise their hand. Then he’ll say, “Raise your hand if you think you’re an absolutely great listener.” A few raise their hands. Then he says, “What would you say if I could prove to you that you don’t listen ever?”

So he’ll say, “I’d like you to imagine someone that works for you. They’re flaky and often don’t show up on time. You keep them because what they do is good enough, but it irks you when they’re always late.” They’re assigned to complete a project and get it to you by Monday morning, and they don’t. What adjectives would you use to describe them in your head? Disorganized? Procrastinator? Should you think of firing them?

Instead, ask them why it isn’t ready. They might say they know they’re late with everything, and they know it makes you crazy. But last night, their grandmother had a stroke. This person explains that their grandfather feels lost, and they had to reassure him that everything would be okay and spent the whole night with him. This person assures you that they can get this project in your email by 5 pm today. What if they said that to you?

Overcome your gut reaction and listen

When something doesn’t go well, it triggers adjectives to describe the other person, which convinces you of something about them that may not be true. You become frustrated instead of wondering if they have a legitimate reason. You must ask with an inquiring tone instead of accusatory.

You should tell your employee to go be with his Grandpa, assuring them that the work can get pushed a couple of days. What happens? That employee will start crying because you were compassionate. That employee will be so grateful that they will stop procrastinating.

How to foster open communication

What if people aren’t open? Dr. Mark Goulston notes that coaches more women than men because they’re more open to it. When he asks women, “Why did you hire me? Why didn’t you hire a woman?” They say, “You’re like the big brother I always wanted.” He can point out things they need to hear—not what they want to hear. He is direct in a playful, loving, yet tactical way.

If you don’t think someone is going to take criticism well, you need to adopt a tone that is inviting, playful, and non-judgmental, i.e., a “big brother” tone. You can grow into it if it doesn’t come naturally. A big brother can be direct, but what they say is laced with love.

To learn more about how to communicate effectively in and out of the workplace, listen to episode #229 with Dr. Mark Goulston.