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Multiply Your Efforts Through Delegation

Management is all about working through individuals and groups to accomplish organizational goals and objectives. To do this requires delegation. But everyone has an excuse for not delegating. Here are some of the common ones:

I don’t know if I can trust her to do it.

He isn’t qualified to do it.

• She doesn’t want any added responsibilities.

• I don’t have the time to show anyone how to do it – I can do it faster

• He already has enough to do – he doesn’t want any more tasks.

• I like doing this, so I’m not going to give it up.

• I’m the only person who knows how to do this.

• She messed up last time, so I’m not giving her anything else to do.

• My employees aren’t ready yet.

• I don’t want to give someone a nasty job to do.

• All of these statements are unfounded. There is someone else to delegate to, and they will do a good job, if you delegate properly. When you find yourself using the excuses above, ask yourself this: Do you enjoy challenging new assignments, increased opportunities and a chance to learn something new? Do you feel you’re ready to take something else on? If you answered yes to these questions, chances are your employees would also answer yes.

Assume that most people want added responsibilities. (Don’t you?) Assume they are keen to learn and take on new tasks. They might even do a better job than you by developing an innovative methodology. If they’re not entirely ready, they’ll need some training and direction. That’s a short-term investment that will pay off many times over the long term. So don’t hold back from delegating.

Who can you delegate to? Look around. Even though you’re not the boss, there are people who will help if you approach them in the right way. For a sales person, this might be someone in the customer service department. For a self-employed researcher, it might be a spouse, child or a neighbor. Don’t always give tasks to the strongest, most experienced or first available person. Development of people is one of the goals of delegation. Explain the benefits for those who will be accepting assignments. They may be looking for broader exposure, prestige, an opportunity to contribute new ideas or a chance to learn a new skill along the way. By spreading delegation around, you give people new experiences as part of their training.

What should you delegate? Get help with routine activities such as fact-finding assignments, problem analysis, data collection, photocopying, printing, and travel arrangements. Delegate things that aren’t part of your core competency. For small businesses, these include accounting, web site design, deliveries, hardware upkeep, software help, graphic design, travel arrangements, patenting, legal issues and payroll. On the other hand, there are some activities that should not be delegated. Anything related to employee feedback, for instance, can’t be delegated. You can’t ask someone else to conduct a performance review, provide discipline or fire an employee.

Create a plan to delegate. Don’t give out assignments haphazardly. First examine what you can eliminate. If you shouldn’t be doing an activity, then perhaps you shouldn’t be giving the activity away to others. Eliminate it. Then, delegate, but don’t abdicate. Someone else can do the task, but you’re still responsible for the completion of it, and for managing the delegation process. Ask yourself whether you’d be prepared to do it yourself. Have you done it in the past? This is a good test of whether it’s appropriate to delegate something.

When you give someone an assignment, clearly communicate the standards for successful completion of tasks. Identify the quality level, timelines and input from others required. It’s then the delegatee’s job to determine how to meet the standards. So delegate the objective, not the procedure. Outline the desired results, not the methodology. Then ask, “Is there anything else do you need to get started?” The delegatee will let you know if he or she needs more guidance, or even if a demonstration of your technique is needed. If not, you can leave the person on his or her own. Then set interim deadlines to see how things are going. Obtain feedback to ensure your delegatee feels she’s being treated appropriately. A simple “How’s it going with that new project?” should suffice. Only do a check up at the next benchmark step you’ve both agreed. Your subordinates will find a way to achieve the objective, and they may end up doing a better job than you. But be prepared to trade short-term errors for long-term results.

Once they get going, trust people to do well and don’t look over their shoulders or check up with them between updates, unless they ask. Give them the appropriate amount of independence by delegating authority along with the responsibility. Don’t make people come back to you for too many minor approvals.

At the end, when the task has been completed, give them praise and feedback. Everyone likes to know they’ve done a job well. That’s when you can also give them added responsibilities. Effective delegation saves you time, multiplies your efforts and builds your team. Delegation is an investment in your own future, as well as in your team’s future. It takes time to prepare assignments, to communicate them to others and to train subordinates. But the long-term payoffs are a better use of your time and a stronger organization. Your time is worth it.