Delegation occurs any time we’re getting work done with (and through) others. Whether handing work off to a staff member or collaborating with a team, clarifying expectations can help build trust—and that can lead to better performance outcomes.   Trust is built when expectations are met over time. So, when we’re not consistently clear about our expectations, it’s harder for the people working with us to earn our trust.   There are four types of expectations to notice and clarify when we’re delegating work:

  1. Tasks – Getting clear about the work, the milestones (what will be done by when), what the end product should look like, and what it’s meant to accomplish.

For example: In my first two professional positions, I worked mostly in prose via Word documents. When I moved on to my next job, I was surprised when the manager said that he had expected me to present my findings in PowerPoint, and was disappointed by my wordy document. Ooops!  Understanding up front what he expected the final deliverable should look like would have saved time and effort.

  1. Process – What are the work hours? How the work will get done? How will we communicate? How will the work get reviewed? Will we share files? Will we meet? If so, how? (e.g., virtually versus in person) When and how often will we communicate? How will we communicate (e.g., text, email, etc.)?

For example: Some people prefer Google Docs, others Dropbox, and still others prefer simple email for file sharing. Getting as clear and specific as possible—even down to the file structure preference and naming conventions for version control—will alleviate headaches and wasting of precious time and effort. If you choose to have regular check-ins (I recommend that you do), also choose when and where they’ll take place (even your virtual meetings needs a “where” – e.g., via phone, Zoom, Skype, FaceTime).

  1. Relationship – Saying, “I want to work with you” can mean many different things. This is where you clarify the roles each person will play and how to coordinate the decision-making process. Establish what authority the delegate has, how you want to be kept in the loop, and where you’d prefer that they seek your approval before moving forward.

For example: A friend of mine is responsible for producing sales support materials. When launching a new sales initiative, her prior boss liked to write to the sales team himself to communicate the highlights of the program and the new materials. However, her new boss sees the dissemination of the materials as part of the sales support role and therefore expects her to write to the sales team herself.

  1. Values – The core beliefs and often unspoken expectations we have about how people should behave.

For example: Some people value punctuality. Since it’s a core value for them, they see it as “disrespectful” when someone is late. Others are more fluid in their understanding of time. Since punctuality isn’t a core value for them, it doesn’t bother them when someone is a few minutes late. Considering and clarifying each of these areas of expectation in every instance of delegation can proactively offset concerns and shift your working relationships. It can also create the space and freedom for conversations and ideas that might’ve otherwise stayed beneath the surface. When that clarity and consistency translates beyond expectations to words and behaviors, that trust builds even faster. With everything out in the open and everyone clear on their roles and timelines, all there’s left to do is move into action and get the job done. Try on these four expectations when you delegate and share the results with me! I’d love to know what comes up and how they continue to shift your work life. Happy experimenting! Alida p.s.  We’ll be covering expectation-setting in more detail in my upcoming Delegating with Ease virtual training on September 14.  For more information and to register, click here. 

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