Why Delegate?

A good question. After all isn’t it better to just do everything yourself? At least then you will know it’s been done properly!

Well, this may certainly be true but consider for one moment who would carry out your duties should you fall ill. Presumably, what you do at work is important to the business so somebody would have to pick up your work. Who might that person be?

On the other hand, suppose a promotional opportunity were to arise. Could you apply for it? Or are you so indispensable that your boss would never consider moving you on? Have you become so ingrained in what you do that you are starting to become a permanent office fixture?

If you think that you are the only person who can undertake your work properly or feel that you are ‘stuck in a rut’ then delegation could be just what you need to get out of it!

Potential Benefits of Delegation

Delegation, when done properly, can liberate. It can free you from some of the more rudimentary aspects of your job so you can focus on the more stimulating and challenging parts. When liberated, you can start thinking more strategically and start to develop your role further. When liberated, you are no longer chained to your role but have the freedom to move onwards and upwards.

Delegation can help develop others too, of course. If we never give others the opportunity to show what they can do then we will never realise their full potential. You may be surprised at what some people can achieve, if given the chance.

Delegation can increase motivation and morale. Giving people new and varied work can inspire them to do greater things. Through delegation you are entrusting others to do something you would normally do yourself and are therefore showing confidence in their abilities. This is all good for the individuals’ self-esteem.

Delegation can improve the business. If, through delegation, we have a more flexible and enthusiastic workforce, that can take on almost any challenge, then we are in a better position to survive when things get tough.

Why we Avoid Delegating

If delegation is so wonderful why would we not use it all the time?

Of course, if delegation is done badly, the reverse of all of the above could happen. If delegation is treated more like abdication (where the manager gives little support or is critical of the individuals’ efforts) then it can easily fail and result in de-motivation. The possibility of failure is something that must be recognised and accepted, but it should not put us off trying.

In addition, delegation does require extra effort on the part of the delegator (especially at the outset). This must be accepted as a hard truth that cannot be avoided completely. It is painful to spend precious time delegating when the pressure is on. The temptation is to abandon it and just do the job yourself. However, once the initial investment has been made, you should see a far greater return over time. Delegation is therefore not a quick fix but a long-term investment for the future.

Five Steps to Success

There are many ways you could decide to delegate, but if you follow the steps below you should find it easier.

  1. Decide what tasks you can delegate. Once done, identify a specific task that would be useful for you to delegate. Describe clearly what needs to be done and by when (write it down, if it helps you focus). Don’t forget you probably know all this but the delegate will not, so above all else you must be clear. Errors and omissions at this stage can result in big problems later on, so it’s worth spending time getting this initial step right.
  2. Identify a suitable person to delegate to. This could be someone who you have confidence in and who would be willing to learn but it could equally be someone who currently lacks drive or initiative. Again, be careful as some people may not look, or behave, like ‘high fliers’ but have the potential to become one!
  3. Brief the delegate by outlining what’s expected. Define the boundaries and limits that must not be exceeded in terms of time, cost and authority. Be very clear about what you do not want them to do. For example, do you want them to research something and then just report back, or do you want them to report back with recommendations or do you want them to carry out those recommendations? Again, clarity at the start helps avoid issues later.
  4. Provide support and training, where needed. Support is nearly always needed and should be freely given. Training may be also needed and in itself can be a further motivator. Each situation is different so it’s up to you to make sure that what is provided is relevant and sufficient. Don’t economise on this stage!
  5. Review – don’t leave the person to flounder. Agree regular feedback and review points and stick to them. Above all, leave the person to get on with it in between each review (with the understanding that they can see you at any time should a serious issue arise). Once completed, review the outcome with the delegate. What went well? What did they learn? What could be done better next time? What would the individual like to tackle next?

Caution

Not every task can be, or should be, delegated. Appraisals and disciplines being two activities that immediately spring to mind that definitely should not be delegated. Remember, delegation is not abdication, so you can’t just pass off the nasty bits of your job!

Remember too that you are delegating part of your job. So if it all goes wrong the buck stops with you. The delegate may be responsible for it going wrong but they shouldn’t take the blame, as it was you who were managing them. In any case if it does go wrong then there will, no doubt, be valuable lessons to be learnt for next time.

Treat delegation as part of your role and part of role will then become easier and more fulfilling. Not everyone is a ‘natural’ at this so be prepared to learn from mistakes and keep trying until it works.

Good luck.

 

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The Art of Delegation

John Bainbridge