One key measure of effective managers lie in their ability to get things done through other people — a prime ingredient for success. Inability to delegate undermines the effectiveness of managers and it may have a real and negative impact on their prospects for career advancement.
Managers who do not delegate well find that they rarely have enough time to complete their work and often fail in their most important responsibility: managing their team.
Skilful delegation is a win-win activity. Managers leverage their own skill and effort by delegating while preparing others to take their place so that they can move up the organisation.
By delegating others to do much of the day-to-day work of the organisation they get more time to manage, plan and take on more complex work with the potential to earn a higher salary.
As employees develop a broader range of skills, they will be ready to move up with the manager. This builds trust, enhances everybody’s career potential and improves the organisation’s health.
Steps to delegation
Prepare to delegate: Careful preparation will minimise difficulties. The first step is often the hardest — slowing down the pace and making sure that people are doing things right.
Managers initially view planning as a hindrance to getting their best work done. But planning to delegate is an investment in your people.
Develop the right attitude: Managers who delegate feel secure about their position in the company and have a positive attitude about assigning work to others.
Managers who lack confidence do not delegate enough. Successful managers are willing to take risks such as stretching their people and making mistakes.
By delegating, you trust others to perform tasks and make decisions. You are not giving up control when you assign tasks. Instead, you are changing the method of control.
Decide what to delegate: Determine what you can delegate and whenever possible, delegate the entire task rather than parcelling it out. This increases initiative, gives more control over results, minimises confusion and eliminates unnecessary co-ordination.
Delegate recurring tasks, detail work, attendance at some meetings and activities that will be a part of the team members’ future responsibilities. Reserve complex and sensitive issues like performance evaluations, disciplinary actions, counselling and morale problems, confidential tasks, for yourself.
Decide whom to delegate: When assigning a task, consider a person’s demonstrated skill, his interest in the task and current workload. Know each person’s record for success on similar assignments — how he works with others, when does he operate best and what abilities he has to work under pressure.
There is no substitute for knowing each team member well, both personally and professionally. Sometimes, be daring. If given the chance, many people can do well at activities they have never attempted before.
The logical person for the task may not always be the most obvious choice.
Effective delegation is more than asking someone to do something. It includes mutual consultation and agreement between the manager and team members.
Solicit team members’ reactions and ideas, thereby bringing trust, support and open communication to the process. Seven steps are essential to be effective in delegating communication:
Tell team members clearly what they are being asked to do. Make sure team members understand the responsibilities they are assuming. Describe the performance standards to be used in evaluating team members.
Explain both the overall goals of the task and the specific goals for each team member. Make sure the goals are specific, attainable, relevant and measurable.
Use personal persuasion and leadership, and not the power of your title and position, to emphasise what is expected of each person. Reach an agreement on the performance standards set for a task.
Explain what results you expect to see and in what form the results must be presented. Be specific. What would an acceptable job look like? An outstanding job?
Grant enough authority to complete the task. Any delegated task must be accompanied by a delegation of authority, that is, the power and resources to get the job done.
Authority may include giving the team member power to spend money, seek assistance from others or represent the department or company.
Get an acknowledgement that team members understand and agree to the assignment. If this step is omitted, you may find out later that an employee objected to working on the task.
Learn any employee doubts, questions or suggestions in advance to try to overcome those concerns. Allow the person to complete the task the way he believes is most effective for obtaining the desired objectives.
Telling team members specifically how to complete an assignment is not an effective means of delegating work. It often limits creativity and initiative and diminishes self-esteem.
Establish a system to reward outstanding performance. Tell the team member in advance about both the positive and negative consequences to expect for excellent and poor performance.
Specifying rewards in advance helps motivate individuals. Identifying negative consequences is equally important for being fair and holding people accountable for their actions.
Monitoring the work of people will not only motivate them but will also help you notice any problems that arise. To monitor work, first determine the degree of control necessary for the task and team member.
An inexperienced team member will need tight control. Loose controls for veteran team members allow greater freedom and maximum use of their initiative, ingenuity and imagination.
Take corrective action. Of course, if progress veers too far from the planned guidelines, take corrective action. Do this first through discussion and warning.
No favours are done by withholding your concerns. Mutually agree on a plan to return to targeted goals. Warn the individual of the consequences for not following the plan. If the situation does not improve, give the person’s authority to others or keep it yourself.
Exceptional performance is more likely to continue if managers reward exceptional performance with exceptional salary increase, promote individuals who consistently perform well and frequently thank everyone whose efforts helped get the job done.