In the workplace race to get more done in less time, truly effective managers must avoid becoming “do-it-all” work-aholics. As such, effective delegation is perhaps the single most powerful high leverage activity in management.
To delegate is simply to commit or entrust to another. To truly delegate, the manager must surrender the authority related to the task, but keep the responsibility of ensuring that the task is completed properly. Many managers would prefer things the other way around. There are a number of common reasons why people choose not to delegate:
1. Poor Soft Skills: poor ‘people’ skills can frustrate, de-motivate and confuse staff, with the required task often not completed satisfactorily.
2. Time-Poor: to delegate effectively requires an up-front investment in training and coaching staff which some managers feel they can’t justify.
3. Perfectionist Streak: a belief that no-one can do it better than you can - and if you want something done right you must do it yourself.
4. Speed: a belief that no-one can do it faster than you.
5. ‘Hands-On’: some managers find it hard to step back from the ‘coal-face’ even when it’s in the best interests of the business.
6. Redundancy: If everything is delegated and running smoothly the manager may feel as though there’s nothing for them to do.
7. Giving Power Away: some managers find it difficult to ‘let go’ of total control of a task – especially if it’s a personal favourite.
8. Fear: of being over-ridden by a superior; of appearing weak by asking for help, of not wanting to criticise (or be criticised) or of even that the person will outperform their manager.
9. Complications: delegation isn’t a simple skill set to acquire - there are many potential pitfalls.
When to Delegate
There are a number of questions to ask that help identify when it is time to delegate:
1. Is the task central to your role? If ‘Yes’, then even if it’s not difficult, keep it on your workload.
2. Is the task urgent, but not important to you? Just because there’s a tight deadline doesn’t mean that you have to handle it.
3. Can the task be done better by someone else? If someone is naturally better at a task, let them play to their strengths wherever appropriate.
4. Will it contribute to staff development/professional growth? Delegation is not just about you clearing your desk – it should also ideally increase your team’s professional skills.
5. Will the task be a suitable stretch? The delegation should challenge but not overwhelm. This means allowing for mistakes but not seeing someone’s confidence or reputation damaged.
6. Is it unpleasant for everyone? If so then make sure it gets shared around fairly – including yourself.
How to Delegate
To give delegation the best chance of success there are several steps to follow:
1. Lay the foundation: First ensure that your culture is one that values the work of all staff. This increases the likelihood that they will want to contribute when asked.
2. Plan: Review your current workload and objectives identifying which tasks can be successfully delegated.
3. Select Staff: Choose who will be most appropriate to delegate what to. Selecting the right person is more important than the closest or friendliest.
4. Communicate: Early, often and in writing are the three key watchwords. Assume nothing and be clear both verbally and in writing about every aspect of what you are trying to achieve and when by.
5. Monitor: Only as agreed, ideally with an established methodology (e.g. MS Outlook tasks, MS Project Plans).
6. Evaluate: At each stage of the process offer positive and corrective feedback – but always in “WE” terms.
7. Reward: On successful achievement, verbal congratulations and praise are important. Where appropriate broader recognition through company newsletters or other mediums can be included.
In short the fruit of effective delegation is sweet to taste but requires a strong commitment from front-line managers to reap the rewards.