The ‘ART’ of Delegation

Think about this, if there was an initiative where you could reduce your stress, increase your productivity and profit and help grow your teams skills – would you do it?

Well you can do all of this by simply “learning” to delegate some of the more routine or recurring tasks in your day to day business. Now, there is of course a caveat to this and that is, delegation is ONLY delegation when the person that the task is being given to is actually learning something in the process, otherwise it’s just passing on work! That demotivates teams and individuals faster than anything else.

Where do you start? Well you need to make a plan, a “delegation” plan, one that will allow you to maintain effective control of all your tasks while still delegating effectively.

So, what can you delegate?

First draw up a list of all the tasks you undertake on a regular basis and list them under three columns – Task name, time to complete and special skills. Mentally work through your week, hour-by-hour, day-by-day. Once done, review the list for suitability to delegation. Think about tasks you performed when you were in a more junior position – is there someone junior in the organization that could be learning something new by doing some of these tasks now? Are there tasks on the list that require special skills that may be available to you through your team AND MAYBE BETTER THAN YOURS!

Now you have done that, draw a line through anything not suitable for delegation, besides the obvious, these include personal tasks (eg collecting your dry cleaning etc), what we mean are tasks that are HR related, disciplinary matters or management of crises – THAT’S YOUR JOB!

Plan your Delegation

Draw up a brief description of each delegable task: ask why it’s undertaken, how it’s been done in the past, when it must begin, when must it be completed, and what the outcome must be upon successful completion. This last point is key. You must have clear goals for the task, goals that are defined in an absolutely unambiguous manner that will make them easily communicable.

What specific results must the delegate achieve in completing the task? You know you have a successful task description if a stranger could pick up your description and understand what’s required.

Decide to Whom to Delegate

You can delegate to use an existing team member’s skill more effectively or develop new skills in a team member. Either match an individual’s proven skills to the requirements to the task or match in terms of the particular skill growth that you want to see in any given team member.

The first thing your delegation candidates will ask themselves is ‘what’s in it for me?’ Identify why the task is important and how it contributes to the overall success of the group. People need to feel that what they are asked to do is truly meaningful. Then determine what growth or development they will personally achieve from developing competence in completing this new task.

Ok, now you have a plan, to execute it you will need to do the following.

Delegate Each Task.

1st warning – DO NOT do this in two minutes or over coffee! Give the exercise the required time to explain the what, how, where, when and why of the task; What’s in it for the team member who will take on the task; and how and when you will review progress and completion. Demonstrate your confidence in the selected candidates, reassuring them that you will be there to provide support should the need arise. If the task is particularly challenging, provide the security of more frequent reviews and clearly agreed milestones of the progress expected and agreed key points. This is essential to providing you with the confidence that you still have control of the tasks you have delegated.

Pass Ownership

Accountability without power is de-motivating. Pass the new delegate the necessary authority to complete all aspects of the new task without coming back to you. Be clear, however, in setting the upper and lower limits of this authority in a manner that leaves no room for misunderstandings.

Review The Delegation

When you delegate the task be sure to agree specific review points with the candidate. Be sure to undertake these reviews, providing advice and course correction as required. Don’t be tempted to review progress more than has been agreed, or to encourage “reverse delegation” where the delegate is at your desk every five minutes asking what to do next.

Celebrate Success

When the task is completed successfully, Be sure to recognize the delegate’s achievement. Provide feedback and sure that his or her success is known within the group.

Do It Again

Go back and review all of the tasks you’re undertaking with a view to passing on as many of those tasks as you can. If you’re paid to manage, then manage.

You DO NOT have to spend money to get greater productivity and profitability, improve motivation, reduce your stress level, and free up your time – you just have to delegate!

Angela Inzerillo

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