Divvy Up: 5 Steps to Delegating Diplomatically

Follow these five simple steps to ask for help in a way that shows your colleagues you respect their expertise and time, and enforces a strong team spirit and atmosphere.

As the go-to source for your office, there’s a wide variety of tasks that cross your desk. Some of them make sense for you to take on and are certainly in your wheelhouse, while others can fall into more of a gray area and are perhaps better suited for another colleague or even your manager. 

In these situations, you may find yourself in the tough spot of delegating to those around you. That’s no easy task — particularly for someone who doesn’t necessarily have a team of their own to fall back on. 

Follow these five simple steps to ask for help in a way that shows your colleagues you respect their expertise and time, and enforces a strong team spirit and atmosphere.

1. Ask for help in person or via phone call
Sending a quick email to someone can often come across as impersonal even though it’s often the most efficient way to delegate a task. To avoid any chance of overstepping a boundary, set a short, in-person meeting to discuss the item you need help with. 

This approach says, “We’re in this together, and I’m asking for help because of your expertise.” Instead of, “I don’t have time and I just need someone else to deal with this.” If an in-person meeting isn’t doable because of schedules, giving someone a phone call can have the same effect.

2. Share the context of the request
Typically, when people have the full context around why something has landed on their desk, they are more understanding and willing to approach it with a positive attitude. Consider sharing as much information as possible when you make an ask of someone. 

Sharing details like these will go a long way toward getting a “Sure thing!” instead of a “Why?”:
●    The top stakeholder making the request
●    The reason the project or task is important
●    The deadline and reason for that deadline

3. Acknowledge the implications of your ask
Instead of making your ask about you, focus instead on the person you’re delegating to, and the effects the request has on their workday. If you’re understanding and empathic about the workload of the other person, they will feel heard and acknowledged. Depending on the situation, you may even be able help them re-prioritize items on their plate, so that they feel better about taking on the ask.

4. Make it easy for them to help you
The easier you make it for someone to take on a project, the happier they’ll be to do it, and the more peace of mind you’ll have about delegating. Put time in up front to get all of the details sorted before you make an ask, such as:

●    The project goal or desired result
●    A detailed timeline with important dates or milestones
●    A folder with all relevant documents and notes
●    A project folder with all of the above included

5. Express your thanks
Whether your process of delegating was a huge win or a long, slow struggle, a key piece of the process is recognizing and appreciating that you made it through together. 

Even if your delegation to a co-worker was potentially a one-off event, it’s worth getting together after the work is done to discuss the following items to ensure there’s no baggage or hard feelings should you need their help again:
●    What went well?
●    What were some mistakes?
●    What did we learn?
●    How can we improve the process in the future?
●    How can we work more together in the future?

Through this process you may even find the opportunity to work more consistently with some of your co-workers, which might be a nice change of pace.