As leaders our job is to delegate - but it all falls apart quickly if we don't have an efficient way of following up.
Most leaders know the struggle and it ends up with us spending a ton of our and our teams time in status update meetings just for us to be on top.
If you have a proper system for following up on delegated work you should be able to know where your team is without needing to interrupt their work.
In this article you will learn to build a delegation framework where:
If it's not written down then it's not work
This is a question about the culture you create as a leader. Should work be implicit or explicit?
If you are not careful most work becomes implicit. A ton of things delegated verbally or unstructured through email or chat apps. This makes it impossible for you as a leader to follow your teams true workload. Worse even, it leads to your team losing track of their work and feeling overwhelmed and behind.
As a leader you have the responsibility to create the environment for them to do their best work. That is best done by making all work explicit with the rule: "If it's not written down then it's not work".
Where you write it down is up to you but is should be a place that makes it easy for everyone. There are a ton of options but we have build tasks right into Workjoy so your team always have a place to write it down at hand.
Set clear responsibilities and deadlines
When it is written down the next problem it to make sure it gets done. The biggest mistake leaders make here is not being clear about basic expectations such as deadlines and who is responsible.
How can a team member get things done in time if you have not defined what on-time is? Common mistakes are using words like "soon" or "asap". Always replace any of those with exact dates like "Tuesday the 8th at 10:00".
The next problem is not delegating your task to a clear owner but instead to no-one or a whole team. As the famous psychologist Albert Bandura writes:
“Where everyone is responsible, no one is really responsible.”
Albert Bandura, Selective Activation and Disengagement of Moral Control
Why is this? Well, it allows everyone on the team to believe that someone else will take care of it.
There is only one way and that is to appoint one singular person as responsible. If they need help they can then easily delegate sub-tasks to their colleagues - again with a clear delegation to only a single person.
Make it easy to track and follow up without a meeting
Now that you have things written down and clearly delegated you have done 90% of the work as a leader! 🥳
Now you need to implement a good framework for following up.
The easiest is just regular meetings like stand-ups or status meetings. But those are crazy ineffective and is repeatedly found to be some of the time your team feels wastes their time the most.
Let's do the math on a 8 person team doing just a weekly update meeting:
- The avg US knowledge worker makes $31.25/hour.
- 8 people attending the meeting means that the cost of each meeting is: 8 * $31.25/hour = $250.
- On average there is 4.34 weeks in a month bringing the monthly cost to: 4.34 * $250 = $1085/month.
A single status meeting costs $13.020 every year! 😱
And we have not even counted in the work that could be done in the 416 work-hours that are spend on just updates every year.
This is a huge waste of time. Especially with most professionals preferring doing their work to doing status meetings.
All of this is just to highlight how costly the default solution for updates is.
This is why using task managers for all work is so valuable. Your task manager must be able to show you all the tasks you have delegated in one place so that you can tracking delegated tasks without interrupting your team or having a status meeting.
Don't be afraid to re-prioritize
A big mistake all humans make is seeing a task as a dedicated commitment once written down. This leads to a huge backlog of work that stresses us out and for many it is why they don't write down agreed tasks.
As a leader you need to help your team with removing tasks that are no longer the most important ones.
Either by pushing the deadline far out in the future or simply by deleting them.
Your colleague can only handle the amount of work they can and having a big backlog will only slow them down.
A good rule of thumb is simple: For any overdue task, the deadline should either be pushed or deleted. It is you as a leader who makes that decision.
Free up your team for the important work.
Build feedback into your workflows
Most professionals know they need feedback to grow and progress in their career - but why is it still so uncomfortable?
A big problem with feedback is timing - it does not come at an expected time. If you have delegated a task that you think could have been done better, the case it that the feedback is not given in the work loop but instead:
- ... in the next 1:1 and thus people get frustrated by the feedback being late. "Why did you not tell me sooner so I could have done something about it." is a common thing we leaders hear.
- ... as soon as you discover it but since feedback it not in the workflow it will come as a surprise when you colleagues have moved on to other projects.
But if you have feedback as a expected part of your workflow it becomes you helping them instead of them getting unexpected criticism.
Summary: Tracking delegated tasks effortlessly
To conclude here are the 5 ways to easily track delegated work:
- Always write it down. If it's not written down it's not work.
- Delegate each task to a single responsible assignee and with a clear due date.
- Follow up asynchronously to avoid costly status meetings. Only spend your time where things are stuck and you can help make things move forward.
- It is easier to add a task than to do it so expect too many tasks to be added. Cleaning up and re-prioritizing is where you as a leader help create focus on the important things.
- Always have feedback as a final step in your delegation workflow. Just because the assignee thinks the task is done does not mean that it lives up to your standards.
All of the above are hard to find in a single tool which is the sole reason we have build tracking delegated tasks natively in to Workjoy.