THE ability to delegate clearly is a sign of good management. Managers delegate work not to just relieve their workload, but to allow the employees they supervise to grow professionally.
Effective delegation involves a two-way discussion. Be clear about the delegated task, give employees an opportunity to ask questions, monitor progress and offer assistance as needed.
Effective delegation benefits both you and the person to whom you have assigned tasks.
Develop the skill
By delegating, you free yourself to focus on the core aspects of running your business, which includes strategic planning.
In the process, you develop your employees by giving them more responsibilities and make them more valuable. You spread accountability to encourage a stronger, more resilient team.
You also respond faster to changes in your business when you can rely on nimble employees to do what is necessary.
Good delegation saves you time, develops your people, grooms a successor and motivates everyone. Poor delegation causes you frustration, confuses your staff, and fails to achieve the task or purpose itself.
Delegation is perhaps the single most difficult skill for new managers to develop. Proper delegation offers the manager the opportunity to grow and develop individuals who can then be recognised as future leaders of the organisation.
Think of delegating as "internal outsourcing". Its main purpose is better time management, so that you can concentrate on bigger tasks that need your attention. But what you should delegate is an important question.
Analyse the jobs you intend to delegate. Plan how you are going to present the assignments, including your requirements, parameters, authority level, checkpoints and expectations. Servant leaders use persuasion rather than rely on their positional authority to get things done.
Do not delegate what you yourself are not able to do. If you should not be doing an activity, then perhaps you should not be assigning it to others. Eliminate it instead.
What to delegate
1. Routine activities
Preparation of rough drafts of reports;
Answering routine questions, problem analysis and suggested actions;
Collection of data for reports, filing, counting, sorting, routine reports; and
Making minor decisions.
2. Tasks that are not part of your core competency
For small businesses, these include accounting, website design, deliveries, hardware upkeep, software help, graphic design, travel arrangements, patenting, legal issues and even HR functions such as payroll.
What not to delegate
Performance reviews, disciplinary matters and firing staff.
An emergency or short-term task where there is little time to explain or train
A presentation to investors about your company's financial performance and future plans
A job no one else in the company is qualified to do.
Doing it effectively
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie once said: "The secret of success is not in doing your own work but in recognising the right man to do it." Here are some points to remember when assigning tasks:
1. Delegate the objective, not the procedure
Make sure the standards and the outcome are clear. What needs to be done, when it should be finished and to what degree of quality or detail? Outline the desired results, not the methodology. Ask people to provide progress reports. Set interim deadlines to see how things are going.
2. Delegate the task to the right person
Don't always give tasks to the strongest, most experienced or first available person. Spread it around and give people new experiences as part of their training.
Obtain feedback from employees to ensure they feel they are being treated appropriately. A simple "How's that new project going?" in between the formal meetings might be all that is needed to encourage your staff to keep you up to date. True listening builds strength in other people.
3. Delegate the authority along with the responsibility
Do not make people come back to you for your approval on minor issues. Trust them to do well and don't look over their shoulders or check up on them along the way, unless they ask. Be prepared to trade short-term errors for long-term results.
When you finish giving instructions, ask, "How can I help you to do your job better?" They will tell you.
4. Give praise and feedback at the end of the project
Thank your staff for a job well done, and reward them with further responsibilities. They will feel valued and motivated to do even better.
The biggest barrier to delegating is overcoming the entrepreneur's curse: Insisting on doing it all. That is a fatal error that prevents start-ups from growing into viable companies.
Here's how to tell if you are digging yourself into a hole. When a friend asks: "How was work today?", did you talk about how much work you did or did you focus on the work that you coached others to do?