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Can your managers manage delegation? Part 1

Delegation is an essential facet of the manager’s art. Overwhelmed by a to-do list? Wondering how colleagues always go home on time? Spending hours on a task that anybody could do but you want it done just right? If these are familiar scenarios, then delegation is required.

Allocating and monitoring work is one thing, but delegation is more than that. Good delegation not only gets the job done, it also eases your workload, provides learning and development for others, aids the organisation in its succession planning, creates multi-skilled teams, and builds trust.

This is the first of two posts on delegation. Part one will provide a clear definition, look at what tasks cannot be delegated, and offer some ‘golden’ rules for good delegation. Part two will look at the factors that can prevent delegation and the pitfalls that the delegating manager must avoid.

Delegation – a working definition

Delegation is…

  • giving someone part of your job and your responsibility,
  • authorising that person to act on your behalf,
  • making sure that person has enough capability AND availability to carry out the task,
  • agreeing the parameters for the task, including arrangements for updates and reporting,
  • a delicate balance between control and freedom.

Delegation is also a matter of ensuring that the person you delegate to has the necessary skills and experience to succeed in the task (or, with support, can acquire those skills while carrying out the task).

What can’t be delegated

Not every task, job, function and project is suitable for delegation. There are limits. If the task in question is basically ‘procedural’ (clearly-defined, with a specific series of steps required in a specific order, possibly with written instructions and guidance) then that’s simpler and less risky to delegate. On the other hand, ‘discretionary’ tasks (needing some judgement about what outcome is needed and how best to achieve it) can be more problematic; although they can also be more developmental for the ‘delegatee’.

Don’t delegate:

  • Personal or personnel issues (e.g. performance management, welfare, etc.)
  • Tasks needing financial authority (e.g. signing off expenses, authorising budget expenditure or invoices).
  • Policy decisions.
  • Strategic planning.
  • Anything that has been delegated to you.

The 9 ‘golden’ rules of delegation

Want a concise and memorable summary? Well, let’s try…

  1. Choose the right task and match it to the right person.
  2. Delegate, Don’t Abdicate.
  3. Take the time to bridge the skills gap.
  4. Let go.
  5. Trust them and then help them deserve that trust.
  6. Whatever you promise to do, do it.
  7. Use your extra time wisely.
  8. Be pleased if they do a better job of it than you – take some credit (but only a little).
  9. Remember to review and show your appreciation for effort.

You’ll know the delegation process has worked (or is working) by the following:

  • Overall you have more time available for work that only you can do (i.e. your real priorities).
  • Your team is developing new skills.
  • A clear culture of trust and empowerment is forming.
  • There are clear candidates to succeed you or stand in for you when you need cover.

In Part Two, we’ll look at way some managers are delegation-phobic, and dig deeper into some of the potential obstacles in the delegation process.

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