Delegation: A Win-Win Management Tool
Want to maximize your personal productivity and develop your team members at the same time? Delegation is a key management tool to use.
Delegation doesn’t come naturally to many of us — we often think it’s safer and easier to do things ourselves. Eli Broad observes, “The inability to delegate is one of the biggest problems I see with managers at all levels.”
Trying to do too much and not delegating is not a recent problem — it dates back at least 4,000 years to the days of Moses. In Exodus chapter 18 we read the story of Moses leading the nation of Israel and trying to do it all, to the detriment of the people. Moses’ father-in-law Jethro came to visit and saw the dysfunction. Jethro recommended that Moses delegate some of the responsibilities and authority to other capable men and reserve the really big issues for himself. Moses wisely listened to the advice of Jethro — and the Israelites were the benefactors.
Let’s explore the management tool of delegation by asking and answering some fundamental questions.
Delegation done well benefits you and the person you delegate to. It frees us up to do the value-added tasks we are paid to do. It helps us avoid being spread too thin and burning ourselves out. Anthea Turner was on the mark when she said, “The first rule of management is delegation. Don’t try and do everything yourself because you can’t.”
Perhaps the main benefit to the person we delegate to is they get the opportunity to grow and develop as they learn and apply new skills, gain additional experience and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Successful completion of delegated tasks builds confidence and improves morale and motivation.
When to Delegate?
Consider these questions to help you decide when to delegate:
• Is someone else capable of doing the job, or is it a job that only I can do?
• Is there someone else that can do the job better than me?
• Is there someone who can do the job at a lower cost than me?
• Is there someone who could benefit from the opportunity to learn and grow by doing this job?
• Do I have enough time to delegate the job effectively? This would include adequate time for training, questions and answers, and opportunities to check progress.
What to Delegate?
The reality is, there are some tasks that we should not delegate even if we could. Tasks that are very important to the success of your team should not be delegated. (Participation by others, yes; delegation, no.) Tasks like strategic planning and selection of team members should be led by the team leader and not delegated.
We should avoid delegating menial or unpleasant work just because we would prefer not to do it. On the other hand, delegating work that is value added, reasonably challenging and rewarding can provide a person an opportunity to feel trusted and to learn and grow.
Who to Delegate to?
Delegation to the “right” person can be inspiring and provide an opportunity to help their development and prove themselves worthy of greater future responsibilities — and a task gets completed competently. Delegation to the “wrong” person can result in poorly completed tasks and frustration by you and them. To help find that “right” person consider some of these factors:
• Does a person have the experience, knowledge and skills to competently perform the task?
• What are the person’s goals and aspirations? Would this delegation be helpful to them in meeting their goals and aspirations?
• What is the current workload of the person? Do they have time to meet the expectations of the task?
How to Delegate?
There are key components to delegation that will help ensure success. Following are some of the most important steps to successful delegation:
• Understand the job to be delegated. We need to be clear in our minds what needs to be done, the process to follow and who we want to do the work.
• Clearly explain the assignment and explain the “why.” We should meet with the employee and explain why this is an important assignment, then talk through expectations on the desired end result. Don’t forget to review the process — this includes levels of delegated authority (e.g. what decisions can be made by the employee versus decisions requiring manager approval), progress updates, your availability for support, etc.
• Confirm understanding and commitment. We should make sure the assignment and all expectations are understood — and the employee is committed to see the assignment through to successful completion.
• Monitor progress and provide ongoing feedback. We want to ensure that the assignment gets completed in accordance with expectations. We also want the employee to learn and have a positive and confidence-building experience. Providing ongoing coaching will help this be the “win-win” we are looking for. We also want to avoid what I call “dirty delegation,” which is micro-management and not letting go enough of the task. The other extreme to avoid is “reverse delegation,” which occurs when the employee entices the manager to do the task that was intended to be delegated.
• Evaluate performance and identify lessons learned. Once the assignment is completed it is valuable to collaboratively discuss the performance of the employee and lessons learned. The time to reflect, evaluate and discuss outcomes and lessons learned is where much of the value of delegation derives from.
• Don’t forget to say “thanks!” Last but not least — don’t forget to say “thank you” to the employee! People crave appreciation and recognition, and providing that will be motivating and inspiring to the recipient.
Here is a final inspiring quote from author and speaker John C. Maxwell: “If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.” I wish the best for you and your team as you delegate well.
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Wes Friesen is a proven leader and developer of high performing teams and has extensive experience in both the corporate and non-profit worlds. A former in-plant manager, he is also an award-winning university instructor and speaker, and is the president of Solomon Training and Development, which provides leadership, management and team building training. His book, Your Team Can Soar! contains 42 valuable lessons that will inspire you, and give you practical pointers to help you—and your team—soar to new heights of performance. Your Team Can Soar! can be ordered from Xulonpress.com/bookstore or wesfriesen.com. Wes can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.