Delegation is a great management tool, but it’s often overlooked or done very badly.
In either scenario you are missing out on a great opportunity…and so are your team members. Although delegation is often seen as a time management technique, it is in reality a development tool. It’s a fantastic way to bring on the skills and talents of team members, whilst also enabling you to focus on your key priority areas. This way, others develop their abilities and gain access to more challenging work. You minimise the risk of getting bogged down in low order tasks that really someone else in your team could undertake. Sounds too good to be true? Well, it’s an area managers often struggle with – but these essential tips can ensure you master delegation and make a big difference to how you manage your workload.
Allocation versus Delegation
These two ways of giving out work are very different. Allocation is giving staff the jobs and tasks which are part of their own job description – work that they are contracted to do. It involves allocating fairly and ensuring the smooth running of the team’s workload. Delegation is temporarily asking someone to carry out an element of work that is normally yours. So clearly it needs careful handling.
Be clear on your objective for delegating and try to ensure that there is mutual benefit – it saves you time and develops the skills base of your team member.
Define an acceptable standard
One of the big mistakes managers make with delegating is saying “well, it will be quicker to do it myself” and “they won’t do it as well as me”. Both of these are usually right – because it’s your work. You are used to it and have probably done that sort of work many times before. So of course the performance standard may be lower, it will take them longer and you’ll have to explain it all! All you need to do is define an acceptable timeline and performance standard and invest a bit of time upfront. This will bring lots of dividends in the longer term – if the person goes on to repeat the work a few times, they will become expert at it. So you will have upskilled your staff and freed up time to concentrate on tasks that have a bigger payback for you. Win/Win!
Don’t just jump in – plan how you are going to delegate by following these tips.
Choose the ‘right’ person
Have some criteria for delegating. You know it’s a development tool. So ask yourself who would benefit by undertaking the task. Consider their current work levels, skills and attitudes. Don’t just pick the person who is always willing to help out. This can cause resentment, jealousy and create a dysfunctional inequity in the team.
As it is part of your job that you are delegating, technically the person being asked has the right to say no. So get their buy in by checking that they are willing to undertake the additional work and that they feel confident they will be able to do with support, to the necessary standards. If they refuse or seem concerned, it’s probably better to ask someone else.
You may be very familiar with the work because it is yours to do! So explain exactly what’s required and the importance of successful completion.
Give instruction where necessary
You may need to break down the task into chunks and demonstrate how to do the work, or provide backup material/instructions.
Be clear on deadlines that will suit both of you and it’s best to build in an interim deadline for a midway review of the task.
Remember that the member of staff won’t want to look stupid if you ask them if they understand. So avoid closed questions like “Do you understand” or “Are you happy now to do this?” Instead ask good open questions, obliging them to recap to you their understanding of the task. “So, please summarise back to me how you are going to go about this task”. That way, you’ll both identify any gaps or potential problem areas and can deal with them upfront.
Once you have delegated the task, remember that there are two other things you may have to delegate. One is responsibility and the other is authority to complete the work. However, there is one thing you can never delegate and that is accountability. You remain accountable for the success of the task, because it is part of your job. So ensure you build in support and checkpoints.
Once you have followed the above guidelines, let the person get on with the work, and resist the temptation to look over their shoulder on constantly check up on them. This will waste your time and erode their confidence.
Final review session
Once the task is successfully completed, have a debrief session, which will include any key learning points, constructive feedback, praise and thanks. It should then have been a rewarding experience for both of you.
Love Ali xx
Founder of Leading Light Enterprises
Author of ‘New Manager Secrets – How to accelerate your success as a manager immediately’