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Learning to delegate is necessary for good management
March 2015

Learning to delegate is necessary for good management

Think about it: are you becoming concerned there isn’t enough time to recover as you jump from one crisis to the next? Is your email inbox always full? Are you struggling to meet deadlines? Is your staff morale beginning to slip? Is your stress level inching upward and causing you to become edgy and anxious?

If these issues and sleepless nights are wearing you down, then I can safely say that you are probably taking on too many tasks yourself. You are probably not as skilled as you need to be at delegating to your team members. Maybe the issue is that you don’t know how to delegate or are afraid to delegate.

Delegation is a skill that is absolutely necessary for good management. It means getting things done through other people. It is all about planning, time management, professional development and the empowerment of your employees.

Delegation is an excellent time management tool and an effective employee-empowerment device. It is not just about handing off work that you don’t want to do or giving employees trivial jobs with little responsibility or decision making. Delegation is about involving your staff in business goals and objectives. It is all about giving employees more responsibility, more authority, more accountability and more involvement in decision making.

However, delegation is not as simple as people think. When entrusting your authority to others to get a job done, managers often face a challenge. In fact, delegating for the first time can cause personal fear and insecurity. When you delegate, your job is to focus only on results. So it can be hard to let go and allow an employee to follow his/her own process.

Some of what you might fear is the loss of control, a loss of power, failure or becoming invisible and therefore no longer being needed. Many of these feelings are directly tied to personal insecurity and a lack of self-confidence. And don’t think for a moment employees don’t have qualms about accepting a delegated task. Without proper preparation, an employee may see delegation as simply passing on a task the man- ager doesn’t like or a tactic to load the employee up with more work. Worse yet, the employee may see they have new responsibilities but with no authority.

So, how should you go about learning and applying the skill of delegation? First of all, understand if you are too busy and unfocused, then 80 per cent of your effort will generate only 20 per cent of the results needed. On the other hand, 80 per cent of all of your results should be achieved with only 20 per cent of your effort. Therefore, you need to learn to delegate as much as possible.

In order to delegate effectively, you also need to understand the various levels of delegation. These different levels include directing an employee to: 

  • Follow your instructions precisely 
  • Look into a situation, report back and then you will decide 
  • Look into a situation and you will decide together with the employee 
  • Tell you about the situation, what help the employee needs and then both of you will decide
  • Analyze the situation, propose options and recommendations; then you as manager can tell them to go ahead or not
  • Make a decision and wait for management go-ahead
  • Make a decision, go ahead unless management intervenes and says not to
  • Make a decision, take action and inform management after the fact
  • Make a decision, take action with no reporting required

Thus, your overall goal as manager is to ensure most of your management time is spent thinking about strategy development rather than doing hands-on work. Now that you understand the various levels of delegation, take time to sit down and analyze just where you actually do spend your time. Do this for a one-month period.

List your activities for the month, estimate the time per activity and then group your time activities into key functional areas. Look for themes and relationships. Identify your routine tasks and name them. Next, determine the tasks you can eliminate altogether, which tasks only you can do and which tasks could be done by someone else. Following this analysis, take a look at the employee talent pool and determine how many people you have available to whom you can delegate. The easiest way in which to delegate is to apply what is commonly known as the “4-D approach.” This tactic is as follows:

Drop it – does it need to be done at all? What are the consequences of not doing it? Don’t delegate what you can eliminate.
Delay it – using positive delay saves time.
Do it – if you can’t drop or delay it and it can’t be delegated, then do it.
Delegate it – if you don’t drop or delay it but it can be done by someone else, then delegate it

However, delegation is not dumping an activity on one of your employees’ desks. Delegation takes time to set up a plan and a structure, and ensure the assignment goes to the right person at the right time. All delegated tasks should be relevant to the individual’s overall job responsibility and skill levels. You will need to plan for sufficient backup and provide support for unseen problems. You will need to help the employee prioritize and make sure there is adequate coverage for their time away from regular duties. You will also need to give the employee adequate time to do the job, so planning in advance is important.

Learning to delegate is a prized management skill and an effective tool for time management, team building and professional development.

Barbara J. Bowes, CHRL, CMC, CCP, M.Ed is president of Legacy Bowes Group and president of Career Partners International, Manitoba. She is also an author, professional speaker and radio host on 680CJOB Winnipeg. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com.

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Category: Business

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