Delegation: Developing not Dumping

Delegation is not about taking something off of the metaphorical plate containing all of the work that needs to be done by you or staff members. Delegation is about development…nothing more, nothing less. When a manager delegates well, they create the opportunity to develop themselves and their staff.

Why don’t managers delegate work?

Does this sound familiar? What I can do in ten minutes, will take me twenty minutes to teach them? Of course, next time, it will take another ten minutes for the manager to do it because he or she is the only one with the know-how. This thought is captured by the expressions, “Give a man a fish and he’ll have fish for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll have fish for a lifetime.”

People also don’t delegate because they think, “If I want it done right, I have to do it myself.” This is certainly true…if the manager has not taught anyone else how to do it right.

Further, managers fear giving up responsibility and authority to others. As Steven Covey said, “Effective delegation takes emotional courage as we allow, to one degree or another, others to make mistakes on our time, money and good name.”

The Motivation for Delegation

Most people view delegation as a way of getting rid of unwanted projects, but this motivation is solely based on self-interest. In the early phase of our careers, most of us have had our supervisor dump work on our plates that was clearly being placed there because the supervisor did not want to do it. Actions like this give delegation a bad name.

Managers who take an active interest in developing their staff tend to delegate more effectively. They understand that delegation is about development, not dumping. Delegation is an opportunity for individuals to stretch skills and gain both confidence and new abilities. This process, however, requires sufficient coaching and feedback to ensure success. If work is delegated and support is not provided, confidence is not developed and the individual will be less likely to handle similar projects in the future. Conversely, active coaching by the manager strengthens relationships, fosters loyalty and can significantly reduce stress for everyone involved.

If delegation is handled well, the individual will develop the confidence and skills to perform similar tasks in the future. This will allow the manager to spend their time more effectively, presumably working on items that would otherwise have not been addressed either at all or in a timely manner.

Herein lies the great irony, when a manager delegates work they will not have more free time on their hands. They will have more time to do the things they should have been doing all along, such as strategic thinking and planning.

The Delegation Plan

The first step in the delegation process is to determine those items that can be delegated. Managers can utilize the following steps to create a Delegation Plan:

Step 1: Keep a log for a period of one week in which you track everything you do in 15-minute increments.
Step 2: Identify all of the items that you must do because they are clearly within your job description AND nobody else should be doing them
(e.g. provide performance feedback to your staff, handle a confidential project…)
Step 3: Identify all of the items that could be done by someone else if they had the skill or time to handle these projects.
Step 4: Of the items identified in Step 3, determine the specific reason why you handled the items rather than having your staff do it.
Step 5: Select items that can be completed by a member of your staff and delegate the work to them while providing the necessary support to ensure their success.

Leaders Delegate!

Truly effective leaders recognize that effective delegation creates an effective team. By utilizing delegation properly, leaders reclaim the time needed to perform the job they were hired to perform and they develop a competent and successful team.