In my years as an operator, one of the most difficult skills to master has been the art of delegating tasks. When I first became a manager, I thought the best course was to do everything myself. Asking for assistance was my idea of delegation. That quickly proved to be extremely inefficient and actually did more harm than good.

I have since come to learn that delegation is key to management, but that it is a two-step process. Clearly assigning the task is only the first step. The second step is following up on the staff’s performance with said task.

I learned this the hard way during my early management years. Let’s just say the memory comes flooding back.

It all started when I noticed the water level in one of our outdoor pools was lower than usual. The general way to fix this problem was to simply turn on our manual fill system to assist the auto-fill with keeping the water level stabilized. I asked a very competent supervisor to turn on the manual fill water, then stashed the directive in the back of my mind for follow-up later in the day.

The problem is that I didn’t remember to “follow-up” until the next morning.

When I arrived to open the park for another busy summer day, I found the entire pool deck flooded, and the water in every one of our attraction pools was well below the desired temperature. During the next two hours I spent backwashing to get the water levels where they needed to be, I realized I should have included “turn the fill water off when the water is high enough” in my instructions. I took for granted that my task was understood, which led to a whole host of issues that wouldn’t have taken place if I had just been a little more thorough in my direction.

Fortunately, we were able to get the park open on time and, thanks to some extremely warm outside temperatures, the pools were back to temperature before the guests had a chance to notice. It’s been years since this incident, but the concept sticks with me on a daily basis. People will do what you ask of them, and that’s all you should expect.

Generally, employees are looking for more responsibility and willing to help out when needed, but it is imperative that, as the manager, you have properly trained your staff on the physical aspects of the task being delegated as well as the expectations that you have for when the job can be considered complete.

Otherwise, you may end up with your own memories flooding back.