Here are some strategies to make the hand-off easier for everyone involved, and to ensure a good outcome:
- Share your criteria for decision making. This might be expressed on a company values document, or you might want to get specific about how you personally go about doing it. This is best done in one-on-ones with the individuals you are thinking about deputizing. You will want to talk about this on multiple occasions, drawing in current situational examples to reinforce your criteria. Remember, common sense isn't one single set of criteria - you need to define what common sense is in your environment.
- Provide the opportunity for victories along the way. You can give that person or persons the opportunity to show what they can do through small independent assignments, which will help both you and them feel more confident in their abilities. Do post-mortems on these assignments with the other party so you can reinforce what went right and thereby increase the likelihood of seeing that right behavior again.
- Create a goal plan or project plan. The first time you do so should be together with them, so you can interact about the implications of the project, the obstacles, solutions, action steps, timeframes and involved parties. Establish check-in times as part of the early plans - and the first few projects should have more frequent check-ins than subsequent ones. Once the individual has demonstrated that they know how to think it through, lay it out, and implement - have them do the plan on their own and then review it with you before implementing. Gradually you will be able to pull back and give the assignment with full latitude, because they will know how to do it and they will already have proven to you that they can do it.
- Set clearly identifiable boundaries. You need to determine - and communicate - whether you want them to bake "something," or whether you want them to bake "miniature corn muffins that contain fresh blueberries - from scratch". If you want to indicate a budget, or who else on the staff may or may not be pulled in to help, say so at the outset. Otherwise you are setting the person up for failure.
- Follow through on your check-ins. You don't want to wait until the whole shebang is due and then find out that it won't be coming, or it won't be in the form that you need it to be. Be accessible, and hold them accountable for timeline benchmarks so both of you have the opportunity to problem-solve if necessary with adequate time to do so.
- Create your own future. Sometimes you are holding on to a task not because they are not ready, but because you like this type of work for yourself, or because you don't know what else you would be doing instead. We see this all of the time in family-owned businesses, where the older generation just can't fathom not being in the thick of it on a daily basis. Founders sometimes have so much emotional energy invested in the business that it's hard to separate, even when they know that it's time to start that process.