When I ask my kids and husband to do things, they often “yes” me but then never follow through, or worse, do what I’ve asked them to do half way. I struggle with what’s worse: being a giant nag or the person who has to do it all. What’s the trick to delegating at home effectively?
Effective delegation is not telling someone exactly how to do something step by step and then standing over them while it gets done. It is also not handing a job over to a person and walking away entirely. Effective delegation is a series of steps that allow you to cross something off of your list and agree to what and when something is going to get done with the person you are handing things off to. It is, if you will, a true team effort to tackle a project. The truth is, it’s a little bit harder to delegate at home, where you don’t have the leverage of money or position. But the principles of delegating effectively don’t really change.
• Be specific. Give the person who you are delegating to all of the specifics of the task. This includes: objective, timing, description of the task, criteria for success. For example, if you’ve asked someone to wash the dishes, you should specify that you want them to load and run the dishwasher every night after dinner. Criteria for success would be clean dishes ready to use for breakfast by the next morning. The more big-picture context you can give them, the more they will understand why their help is so important.
• Negotiate so that the task works for both people. Try to make sure everyone has something to gain by doing this. For example, if Dad does the dishes each night, Mom will make dinner and then get the kids ready to go to bed. This step is all about give and take and making sure that both parties agree to who will do what. Once you have negotiated who will do what, make sure you repeat what you have agreed to. This should include not just the task to be done but the parameters around the task as well.
• Step back and let the person do the task at hand. Don’t criticize or watch over the task being done. Accept that the task will not be done exactly the way you would do it but as long as it is accomplished and done on time, that is okay. If the dishes are clean the next morning, do not worry about how they were loaded in the dishwasher or if they were rinsed off first. Accepting imperfection and letting go are keys to successful delegation.
• Provide feedback, especially positive feedback. Once the task has been completed, give constructive feedback to the person. As a guideline, tell the person five great things about the job for every one criticism.