Before you read the tips to delegate effectively, ask yourself: do you need to become better at delegating? In my 14 years in management, I have met a variety of leaders who complain about being overworked; having too much to do and not enough time to do it; and simply bogged down doing ‘stuff’.
I first asked them about what they are delegating to their team members and I was always surprised that many of them do very little to alleviate their pressure and stress by delegating some of their work.
According to Donald Rumsfeld, the US Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush, “Don’t be a bottleneck. If a matter is not a decision for the President or you, delegate it. Force responsibility down and out. Find problem areas, add structure and delegate. The pressure is to do the reverse. Resist it.”
I have written something about the subtle differences of a manager and a leader. Delegation is a combination of both. This means you should not have to do everything on your own but whatever happens, you are accountable for your own unit and the things that your team members do. However, you need to learn how to put responsibility to the people around you so all of you will share the accountability.
Understand Why Managers Avoid Delegation
It is important that we understand why some managers do not delegate to their members. The first reason is effort. It is difficult to delegate because this also entails the extra task of checking if the job was done right. Oftentimes, leaders would rather do the job themselves because they are sure that the job will be done right and in a timely manner.
Though the intent is good, this does not expose your members to bigger responsibilities. I have to say this cliché: experience is the best teacher. No amount of classroom trainings, coaching, and meeting will put your members at a state where they are ready to move up unless you start trusting them and giving them more tasks relevant to their advancement.
The second reason is distrust. Some managers do not completely trust their team members’ abilities. Perhaps the task that needs to be done is a new one and the subordinate has not yet shown an expertise about it. In some cases, the team member failed the first time and the manager now has reservations to delegate again.
But how will someone learn if you do not let them make mistakes? As a good manager, you should trust your team members, forgive mistakes, coach and then move on. It can take a while to develop a person but it is all worth it.
When and Who to Delegate Effectively
Delegation does not mean passing the buck but I have to say that there is a thin line between delegation and being irresponsible. As a good manager, you need to choose which tasks need to be delegated and which ones need your personal attention.
You need to delegate if:
- the task will give the person an opportunity to grow
- the nature of the task is requires an expertise that your team members have
- the task is recurring
- there is enough time for the member to accomplish the task
- you need to share decision-making responsibilities
- there is a lot of work to be completed
- your staff has low morale
However, you also need to be able to measure how critical the job is. If it is critical, you need to do it yourself.
Choose the right people when delegating. You need to check the competency and readiness level of the person you want to assign the job to. Ask yourself what experience, skills, and knowledge your employees have. If they do not have adequate knowledge, you need to ask yourself if you have the time and resources to train them. You should also factor in the current workload of the person who will receive the job or task form you.
How to Delegate Effectively
The success of delegating jobs will still depend on how you provide your instructions. Whether or not the person is new to the task you want done, you need to:
- establish a clear goal.
- explain what you intend to achieve
- set timelines when the project needs to get done
As a good manager, you need to foresee possible roadblocks or obstacles and be prepared for it. Set clear boundaries as to what is expected of the employee. The team member should also know how far he can make decisions on his own and what his accountabilities are.
Be On Top of Things
Your job does not end in delegating. After the expectations have been set, you need to spot check your team’s progress from time to time. This does not mean that you need to micromanage them. What you need to do is to be aware of the current status of the task or project and make corrections if necessary. As the team progresses, you should also look for their opportunities and help them grow through your guidance.
Lastly, there might be a need to involve the whole team so you can empower them to make decisions. In several cases, especially for activities that require team effort, you may need to match the type of responsibility with the current skills of each team member. If you do not do this, you might be dressing the team up for failure.