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How not to delegate like a douchebag

Posted by Veronica Wainstein on August 8, 2019 at 7:00 PM
Veronica Wainstein
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A vital task for any manager is to learn how to delegate and run an efficient team… but how to best do this tricky task?

The ability to delegate is one of the most basic and essential functions of a manager. Do it well, and your team makes their deadlines, produces great quality work – and in times of crisis, they’ll take bullets for you.  Do it badly, and chaos will reign. Your team will miss deadlines, the quality of their work will suffer, and your people start to accept LinkedIn requests from recruiters.

I firmly believe that when you ask for help, you are genuinely asking from a good place. In my experience as a manager, I think it empowers people when you let them know that they have skills that you don’t. Managers are often not humble enough to say “I actually don’t know how to do this.”

For example, I go to someone in my business who’s really good at Excel, because I suck at Excel. I’ll say: “I really need your help, would you mind giving me two minutes. I need this, I need that, and I have absolutely no idea how to do it.”

But it’s easy for ego to get in the way, and these are three of the most common ways managers end up delegating like douchebags.

  • Not handing over control

The first douchebag delegation technique is not handing over control. A lot of managers attempt to delegate - but then assume control again. They’re unable to delegate and trust that what they’ve asked is actually going to get done. This is often worse than micromanaging because, aside from disempowering your team, it leaves them wondering whether what they’re doing is right or wrong. It feeds into the manager’s egocentric assumption that “if I want to get something done properly, I have to do it myself.”

This can do serious damage to trust and end up with a breakdown in communication. The team probably ends up double-tasking and taking more time to get an exercise done because you as the manager can’t let it go and trust that one person is going to do it properly.

  • Dump and run

Another common douchebag delegation technique is the dump and run. This happens when managers are in a hurry and want something done now. They give  a quarter of the information and then disappear, so the team member/s can’t reach them to ask more questions. They’re unavailable to clarify things and when a team member does get hold of them to ask for more detail, the manager gives short, curt answers rather than making the time to brief them properly.

  • Barking instructions

The third douchebag delegation technique is the barked instruction. Everybody’s lives get busy and everybody has admin that involves, not just work, but family and life too. So when it comes to delegating because your plate is too full, you’re often in such an overwhelmed headspace that you bark instructions rather than helping your team understand why you need help. If you’re just going to bark out demands and try and force people to bow down to your command , then you’re not going get the best out of them, and in all likelihood they’re not going to want to do anything for you in future.

How do managers avoid these mistakes?

  • First, work out what needs to be done

If you are swamped and you realise you need help, first sit down, work out the things you need to do and choose the best person for the task. (For example, I firmly believe that if you want something done quickly and efficiently with the least resistance, ask the laziest person to do it because they’ll find the shortest, easiest way to do it.) If it’s a highly detail oriented project, then go to the team member that takes their time, scrutinizes everything and dot all the í’s 

Think everything through before briefing your team. If you can’t tell them what you need in two very clear and concise sentences, then you clearly don’t know what you need because you haven’t taken the time to think about it properly.

  •  Be clear about what you want, and when

Approach the individual you’ve identified to help you and say “can you facilitate this?” Give them a reason why you asked them to do it. If you set goals clearly up front - these are my expectations, this is what I need and this is when I need it by - you shouldn’t have to micromanage the process. 

Make yourself available to clarify what you want if your team member has any questions. If you’re managing them well enough or giving them enough freedom to think for themselves, they should be just as comfortable coming back to you to say “I actually need more information.” 

It’s really quite simple. You know what you want – so tell them what you want! For example, if you want a red jersey that is three quarter length in a certain style, tell them that, so they don’t bring you back five different types of jerseys.

  • Understand individual styles

Good delegation skills are based on mutual understanding between managers and their teams. There are people who want to know the detail to the nth degree and those – like me – who don’t. So when it comes to taking notes on a task, it’s important that the person that I am delegating to understands that I’m not going to jot it all down, and the onus is on them to document the information. This is how I as a manager help someone to understand how I operate. The same is true on the flip side - when I am briefing an individual that needs all the details, I give them the time to interrogate each instruction, so they are comfortable that they have all the information. 

Ultimately, the best way to delegate well is to give your team an understanding that things don’t have to be complicated. Reshift the power back to them. Give them the freedom to think for themselves.

Remember these three simple pointers, and you’ll never delegate like a douchebag again.

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