Delegation – the management skill that gives you more time!

Delegation – the management skill that gives you more time!

If you search the internet for articles on how to delegate effectively, they all pretty much say the same things; pick the right person, confirm their understanding, agree deadlines, follow up at the agreed intervals and give feedback after the work has been completed.

All of this sounds great, but if it is really that simple why do so many managers get it wrong? Simple answer is we are control freaks – if we do it, then it is done to our standards and we won’t have to do it again. Part of this statement is very misleading – in the short term, it may take a little longer, but by training/guiding another person through the task it will take you (the manager) less time to review, therefore you have more time to do other aspects of your role. Also you are challenging your team members to grow and allowing those who perhaps simply need a nudge to develop into a future team leader themselves.

Let’s be honest, we have all been caught out when we have delegated work and it has not been completed on time, or to the required standard. So it’s a question of what made the delegation of the work ineffective? Normally it can be down to one of the following reasons:

  • Prepare – A fundamental step is the need to take time and develop the discipline to map out exactly what you’re asking for.
  • Assign to a suitable receiver – Once you know what you are asking for and the detail involved, you need to communicate this effectively to a suitable receiver. When a compromise is needed, your preparation will help you decide where the priorities are.
  • Confirm understanding – Done correctly it can take as little as a minute. Don’t assume the receiver understands; ensure you clarify their understanding by demonstrating back to you.
  • Agree commitment/acceptance – They need to accept the tasks you are giving them and understand the consequences to them, the project or the company in the event of failure to achieve the desired outcome, and ensure their overall goals are aligned with yours.
  • Avoid “reverse delegation” – It should not be the case that tasks once delegated come back to the manager to be completed (some employees are good at passing the work back!). Don’t let them! If an employee reaches an impasse, treat it as a learning opportunity. Coach the employee through it, making sure he or she has the resources and knowledge needed to complete the task. That way, you’ll still be free to focus on other things, and the employee will be better equipped to carry out similar tasks in the future.
  • Follow up at appropriate intervals – Communication is a two way process and it is no good finding out at the deadline that the task has not been completed or is not to a satisfactory standard. For longer tasks agree regular updates and make sure that you are confident you are getting the true story, not just what you want to hear.

The art of delegation becomes more natural the more you practise it, and once you have mastered it you will see that you have more time to spend on the key functions of your role and reap the rewards.

Just be careful that your manager doesn’t delegate too much to you!

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