Al Levi: How to delegate projects without losing your mind
Why won’t people at my company take responsibility for getting things done? Seriously, if I don’t do it myself, it’ll never get done. I don’t know what they do all day but they don’t spend time getting done what I want them to, especially when it comes to important projects.”
This is a standard complaint I get from frustrated owners. And, I get it. But these owners never seek to change their methods, so they keep getting the same results — and only more frustrated — as they go.
Here’s the sad fact: You’ve trained your staff that if they don’t do what you want the way you want, you’ll lose your mind and take the project back, anyway. And that is training them to not take responsibility or action because you’ll never be pleased with what they do.
When you’re done complaining privately, publicly, or both, you take these projects and things that need to get done at your company back so you remain overloaded. Am I right?
I know why you stopped delegating anything to anyone. It’s because you’ve been trained by your staff that it’s a waste of time and money to do so.
This used to happen to me at my company. Keep in mind we had grown to 70 employees, yet still no one was able to help me get things done. I blamed them. But, the problem was actually me.
I never took the time to delegate anything to anyone properly because I was in too big of a rush, and I assumed they were, too. So, I dumped it on them instead of delegating it to them.
What’s the difference?
Delegation is a process that gets things handled on the front end versus dumping, which is no process other than possibly a passing conversation in the hallway. That means too little information is delivered in a poor way, which typically ends up in having to mop up the mess on the back end.
Delegating properly is what will keep you sane — and your staff, too. I created a one-page form that I put on a clipboard, waited for something that needed to get done, and looked for an opportunity to delegate properly. I called it the Steps of Delegation.
These are the steps that comprise the Steps of Delegation: determine what needs to get done, determine why it needs to get done, determine what resources you have available to get it done, determine the priority assigned to it, determine by when it needs to be done, make a meeting schedule for checking on the project's progress, and determine the rewards and consequences.
The trick is that I learned to know what I really wanted before I asked for their help. And by writing it out with each of them following the above bullet points, we literally and figuratively got on the same page.
Let’s unpack this a little more with an example of beginning to take control of your warehouse:
Determine what needs to get done: Clean the warehouse and lock the entrance so only the Warehouse Manager has access and Techs have to come to the entrance for parts.
Determine why it needs to get done: If the warehouse is a mess we never know what we have in stock, the condition of that stock and what we’re missing. If the gate is always open and everyone has access there’s no way to keep inventory secure and at the right levels that are not too high or too low.
Determine what you have available to get it done: You have full access to the Warehouse Manager and an Apprentice this month and there’s a budget of $1,000.00 to get all the right shelving and bins if they’re missing or required.
Determine the priority assigned to it: It’s a 2 out of 5 on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is super urgent and 5 is when we get around to it.
Determine by when it needs to be done: This project needs to be completed within 30 days of completing this form with me today.
Make a meeting schedule for checking on the project’s progress: We’ll be meeting every Wednesday at 10 a.m. for 30 minutes to review your progress.
Determine the rewards and consequences: There’s a one-time special bonus of $500.00 for bringing this project in on time and on budget.
Let’s role-play this a little to work through the typical hiccups that can arise.
At the first weekly meeting, you ask the person you delegated this to for a progress report as you tour the warehouse together and they say something like, “I wasn’t able to work on it this week because the apprentice was on vacation.”
Your reply needs to go something like this: “Understood. Now, you have three weeks remaining. How do you plan to catch up?”
Usually, this gets a stunned response because in the past they figure you’d take the project back, but you’re not, and you’re also not willing to push the deadline. That means they need to think, act and know there is accountability when a project is assigned through the Steps of Delegation. More often than not, they’ll figure it out and get it done. On the rare occasion that they don’t, you can use it as a teachable moment.
At my Zoom Drain franchise, our staff doesn’t like getting projects delegated to them — they love it. They know that if they do well, they’re automatically earning their way to the next rung on the corporate ladder. Hand things off, but do it in the only sane way there is, and that’s by using the Steps of Delegation.