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Find the right people and train them

Is there such a thing as a “perfect” delegation candidate?

7 min read


Find the right people and train them


In past posts we defined what delegation is, have made the argument for why principals need to delegate, shared eight steps to effective delegation and discussed what should and should not be delegated. In this post, we will tackle how to find the right delegation candidates and properly train them to take the project and run with it.

Is there such a thing as a “perfect” delegation candidate?

No, there isn’t.

Part of determining to whom you should delegate tasks will depend on who you have available, and your purpose and intent when delegating. For example, tasking something to a new hire that you want to groom may look different from asking a seasoned member of the team to complete the same task. One may be better equipped to do it today than the other, but that may not be your primary consideration.

Here are some factors to consider when seeking to identify the right candidate for delegation.

  1. The experience, knowledge and skills of the individual. What knowledge, skills and attitude does the person already have? How do they match up to the task at hand? What will they need to learn? Do you have time and resources to provide any training needed?
  2. The person’s current schedule and workload. Does the person have time to take on more work? Will this task require reshuffling of other responsibilities and workloads?
  3. The individual’s preferred work style. How independent is the person? Can he or she collaborate as needed?
  4. The subordinate’s personal goals. What does he or she want to gain from the job? What are his or her long-term goals and interests, and how do these align with the work proposed? Will this work be engaging and motivate growth?
  5. The delegate’s passion. Has the delegate expressed an interest in this kind of work? Does it align with his or her values and beliefs?
  6. Someone to groom. Is there a person on staff who you would like to develop, in terms of skills, leadership or both? Perhaps this project is something that they know or can do well and is the perfect opportunity for an easy win.
  7. The project’s flexibility. Is the project one that requires a very specific outcome, or can it be completed in different ways depending on each person’s preference? Filip Boksa, the chief executive officer of King of Maids writes, “Letting employees test out their ideas will not only keep them engaged, but it may also lead to additional revenue streams.”
  8. The availability of training resources. Is the leader or some other team member able to train and direct as needed? Are there accessible programs or service providers that can serve that role?
  9. Opportunities for practice. Can you practice or roll out the project in a low-stakes manner that will allow for confidence building and correction?

To examine each of these criteria more deeply, let’s analyze a decision I made when I was the head of a school.

When I arrived at the school, I had a staffer named Laurie; her title was office manager. She served many roles, including managing front-office staff, keeping my calendar and managing substitutes for absent teachers. She also was tasked to some seasonal work relating to student registration, mailings and the like.

After completing a five-year strategic plan during my first year on the job, it was clear that we needed to attend to many areas that had previously been neglected by our fledgling independent school with limited resources. One such area was hiring an admissions director, a role that had been filled de facto by our assistant head of school. Another was to invest more manpower in marketing.

I wanted to address both issues simultaneously. I approached Laurie with a proposal. We would relieve her of some of her managerial and clerical duties and make her our combined Admissions and Marketing Director. This move made sense to me in part because Laurie had graduated college years earlier with a marketing degree, so at least some of the skills were already there.

The move was a win-win.

The school moved the needle in some important areas. While this was not the full staffing level recommended by our accrediting agency, we at least began the process of directing more attention and resources to those areas.

Laurie was excited because these new tasks were squarely in her wheelhouse. She’d be able to demonstrate her creative spirit and enthusiasm about the school with her marketing work and each time she interacted with a prospective family. She also received a promotion and a 10% raise in her base salary.

Let’s now revisit our list of delegation factors to see how good a “fit” Laurie was for this new position.

  1. The experience, knowledge and skills of the individual. Laurie held a marketing undergraduate degree that she hadn’t really used professionally. And, as she was now in her 50s, much of what she had learned had become obsolete. The good news was that, in addition to her basic education and intuition, she had worked in our school for many years and possessed an intimate understanding of the market.
  2. The person’s current schedule and workload. Laurie remained the office manager in title but we redirected many of her tasks elsewhere. She also committed to working added hours to complete her new tasks.
  3. The individual’s preferred work style. Laurie was an independent worker who collaborated well as needed. She was well-respected and many people’s trusted listening ear, so she was able to advance projects with relative ease.
  4. The subordinate’s personal goals. Laurie had not communicated her personal goals prior to this time. She was a selfless person, so she was largely content to allow the school’s goals to drive her own.
  5. The delegate’s passion. Laurie was a team player. She began at the school as a volunteer and filled many roles over the years. This was the first time that her passions and job description would fully align.
  6. Someone to groom. This was not about grooming Laurie, though she would develop her skillset further with this new role.
  7. The project’s flexibility. This was a flexible process which allowed Laurie latitude to make recommendations and experiment with various approaches.
  8. The availability of training resources. My assistant head of school would oversee aspects of her work at first and provide guidance. Laurie also enrolled in some training programs.
  9. Opportunities for practice. Coming from near-nothing in the areas of marketing and admissions, Laurie would have plenty of opportunities to practice and “get it right.” We would support her in this process and help her set goals to drive performance.

Provide adequate training

Finding the right person to delegate to may not be enough. Often, that person — experienced or not — is going to need to learn new concepts and skills to do their job correctly and efficiently.

One of the first questions you want to ask is, “What do you need to learn in order to do this task properly?” Once the person responds, add whatever you feel may still be missing. Next, figure out what kind of training makes sense. Options include college courses, training seminars, online videos, books and magazines, mentors, coaches, peer observations and LinkedIn and Facebook groups.

Of course, the greatest learning tool is most often experience. And no matter what resources you make available, allow for errors. They ultimately produce clarity and confidence. As Brazilian lyricist and novelist Paulo Coelho put it, “Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.”

To delegate is a brave step for both of you. But if you have the right person and are clear on what needs to be achieved, you will each appreciate that you did it.

Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, (@impactfulcoach) ) is president of Impactful Coaching & Consulting. Check out his leadership book, “Becoming the New Boss.” Read his blog, and listen to his leadership podcast. Download his free new eBook, “An E.P.I.C. Solution to Understaffing.”


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