Managers, Stop Delegating Work

Delegation is often seen as a manager's key responsibility, but it really isn't.

Managers often believe that delegating is their primary responsibility, but this is a misconception. Instead, managers should focus on creating alignment and ownership within their team by effectively assigning work. The distinction between delegation and assignment is crucial because delegation is generally a short-term fix, while assignment is a long-term solution.

The Problem: How Can I Effectively Assign Work?

Managers constantly face complex, unsolvable problems, and when it comes to assigning work, the main issue is that if you fail to do it the right way, the work finds its way back to you.

As an engineer-turned-manager, your initial reaction might be to step in and fix it yourself because you know how. However, this is a mistake.

Being a rescuer is like being stuck in the mud. You'll find yourself spinning your wheels and never getting any traction.

Try This Tactic: Use a Formula

To become master at establishing objectives and organizing work, use this formula when assigning tasks to your team members:

"You need to accomplish {objective} by {date} because it supports {department goal}. Here is what I'm looking for to gauge success: {key result 1}, {key result 2}, and {key result 3}."

Ensure that each person on your team has no more than four of these statements at any given time.

Bonus: Apply this same formula to organize your own work, and ask for your manager's feedback.

The Expected Outcome: Increased Engagement and Alignment

By using this approach, you show your direct reports what they are accountable for, how their work supports the broader mission, and what success looks like along the way. This clarity helps boost employee engagement and alignment.

Moreover, this formula will help you focus on the right things and bring clarity to your own work.

Remember, effective management is not about delegation; it's about assigning work strategically to create a sense of ownership and alignment within your team.


Recommended reading

Measure What Matters by John Doerr

Read about the origins and some best examples of Objectives and Key Results.

John Doerr took IBM's approach to corporate goal setting, clarified the OKR framework, and coached some of the greatest corporations as they aligned their entire organization around a singular focus.

While the book is heavy on storytelling, its appendix is rich with practical resources to up your OKR game.  

Disclaimer: The links in this post may contain affiliate links.

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