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Leaders have to delegate. They decide who does what work and how much. In a competitive marketplace, success goes to those who produce most efficiently. You want your teams to get as much done at the highest level of excellence. What do you do when they don’t?

When the work you assign does not meet the standards you’ve set, do you assume that your employees have failed? Or do you consider improving the way you delegate?arrows confusing

man confused at arrowsIn my experience, poor performance is more often the fault of the delegator rather than that of the doer. In The Secret to Effective Delegation, Victor Lipman boils down the secret to effective delegation to one word—clarity. Then he dissects clarity into four kinds.

Clarity of Objective

What does done look like? Good employees, when they have a clear picture of the objective, should be able to deliver it. Too often, however, the delegator’s directions leave an incomplete or vague picture of what he or she expects. The time you spend up front making your expectations exceptionally clear will pay big dividends in results.

Clarity of Responsibility

Who does what? When you assign more than one person, a team, to an assignment, make it absolutely clear who is responsible for what. You may want to put one of the team in charge, especially if their titles or positions don’t already make that clear. Or you may want to divide up the parts as part of the assignment and save them the time it will take for them to do so. Either way, make it clear.

Clarity of Time

What’s the deadline? Make the delivery time abundantly clear. Avoid non-deadlines like “one of these days” or “when you get a chance.” Just as confusing are “quickly” or “right away.” It takes no more effort to speak words like “by the end of the month” or “tomorrow afternoon.” Clear deadlines also uncover issues you may need to resolve, for example, when you receive a push back like “I can’t do it by then!”

Clarity of Communication

What do you mean? The previous three points are all about communication. This point is about continuing to communicate. Make yourself available for follow-up questions, promptly answer all questions, and let your employees know that you will clarify at any point in the execution timeline. Don’t forget to tell them how to reach you, for example, if you’re going anywhere.


Helanie Scott
Helanie Scott
Helanie (pronounced yeh-LAH-nee) Scott, CEO and founder of Align4Profit in Dallas, Texas, has driven stunning leadership and cultural transformations for an impressive list of organizations. She has mastered the ability to connect with her audiences in the boardroom, classroom, on stage, or in one-on-one coaching sessions. Helanie’s Align4Profit clients rave at the way her engaging programs freshen outdated mindsets and deliver results-oriented, aligned action.