Understand what delegation is - and what it is not.
Delegation is much more than simply assigning projects to others. It includes providing the authority and latitude necessary to get the job done well. When delegating a task, make certain you provide the person to whom the task is delegated the right to make the decisions necessary in order to complete the task. Delegation also includes developing the members of your staff by challenging them and stretching them - encouraging them to develop their own set of talents and abilities. In so doing, you build up your staff enabling them with opportunities which allow them develop new knowledge and skills which will strengthen your entire team.
Communicate expectations clearly.
When delegating a project make certain you effectively communicate. You want to clearly identify the parameters and the purpose of the task in question as well as make certain those working on the project understand its importance. Clarify all deadlines including expected progress reports and final due date. Make certain the person assigned the task knows what authority they have to accomplish the task. Written expectations are always preferred to directions given orally.
Provide ongoing oversight without suffocation.
Just because you have moved the task off of your to-do list and on to someone else’s does not mean you can forget about it. You need to check up periodically on the progress being made. Make certain progress reports are delivered as scheduled. Make yourself available in the event the person working on the task has questions or needs direction. If the feedback provided indicates the task is off target, deal with it earlier rather than later. Yet all this must be done in a fashion that does not make the person assigned the task feel they are being suffocated or micromanaged. Your role is to ensure the project is being completed in an effective and timely manner not to dictate how this is to be accomplished.
Avoid becoming the place to go for an answer.
You are not helping your team to develop if you are always providing the answers to their questions or solutions to their problems. I remember how frustrating it was to go to my dad and ask for help with a math problem. My frustration occurred because I just wanted him to give me the answer. But he would make me work through the problem to discover the answer on my own. That same principal needs to be practiced when you delegate. If the person working on the task runs into a problem, don’t let them “upward delegate” by throwing the problem back in your lap for you to solve. Insist that when they come to you with a problem they also bring at least a couple of possible solutions that you can discuss.
Don’t fall into the trap thinking you could accomplish the task faster and better.
OK. Maybe you could. Remember, every time you assign a task to someone on your team and they successfully complete that task, they have gained experience which makes them a more valuable team member. So, yes, you probably could get the project completed faster and more competently today. However, the person you are training by delegating that task may be developing into the team member who can get that task done faster and better than you a year from now. So you must choose – do you want your team to be at the same competency level a year from now or do you want it to develop so, as a whole, it is much stronger in twelve months?
Banish the fear of becoming irrelevant.
Some managers do not want to delegate for fear their team members will develop their skills and abilities making the manager’s role irrelevant. That will only be true if you delegate all the work to your subordinates and do nothing with the time you have freed up in your own schedule. Remember, the main reason you delegate is to assign tasks that can be handled by others to others then use the time you have freed up working on those tasks which can best be accomplished by no one else but yourself. In so doing, your department becomes more productive and you are continuing to develop your skill set. Your superiors aren’t going to deem you irrelevant – they are going to recognize your achievements and the accomplishments of your team. Your value as a member of the company will increase, not decrease as you learn to effectively delegate.
Delegating requires strategic thinking.
As a manager you must know the strengths and weaknesses of your team members. When you delegate, you make those assignments based on which team members have the greatest capacity to succeed at the task at hand. You must plan ahead. Not only with regard to how much time each project will require, but by thinking through the projects you are going to delegate over time in order to enable each subordinate to develop their competence. By developing a strategic plan for delegation, you not only get the jobs done, you are also developing your team in the process.
Learning to delegate, and learning to do it strategically, can help you develop into a highly successful manager. Contact Chris Mahan of the Mahan 9 Group to set up a training event designed to assist your managers in developing the knowledge and skills necessary to delegate effectively.