The 10 Rules of Successful Delegation
So you are settling well into your new management role but you can’t help but feel like you have way too much on your plate and you are increasingly buried deep in work.
That may be making you feel a little frustrated, but hey, there’s a way out of this – delegation.
Delegation is a very important skill for any manager, business owner or team leader in the accomplishment of a majority of business goals. If you cannot delegate, you will have a very long shot at being a successful manager.
While it might feel good to get all your tasks done on your own, you will eventually encounter stagnation and exhaustion, which will have a negative impact on your productivity.
Delegation helps prevent you from getting to this point. In addition, it will allow you to make huge time savings and also present your team with opportunities to develop their skills.
In today’s article, we are going to take a look at how to take advantage of delegation to improve your efficiency as a manager or business leader.
WHAT IS DELEGATION?
Since managers alone cannot undertake all the tasks assigned to them, they have to subdivide and sub-allocate the tasks to subordinates to achieve the targeted results.
Delegation is the administrative process where authority to perform a particular task is conferred upon another person.
This process cascades from the very top of the company in line with the scalar principle, where a clear chain of authority (chain of command or scalar chain) is established between superiors and subordinates.
For example, authority is disseminated from the Board of Directors, to the CEO, departmental managers, first line managers and finally to where actual work occurs.
Usually, one person can only effectively supervise a limited number of subordinates.
When this limit is reached, they will have to delegate their powers to someone else to oversee the supervision.
The managers performance is evaluated not on work actually done but what they get accomplished through their team.
As a manager, you can only delegate the authority to perform a task but not responsibility.
You are ultimately responsible for ensuring the tasks assigned are accomplished as planned.
ELEMENTS OF DELEGATION
Authority: This is the power you have as a manager to utilise and allocate business resources as you deem fit as well to issue orders aimed at attaining organisational goals. The scope of authority of a particular section-head is usually strictly defined to guard against misuse.
Responsibility: Once authority is delegated, the employee to whom the tasks have been assigned is given responsibility over them and as such, completion is dependent on them. They will need to be answerable if the task is not accomplished as required.
Likewise, they would be the ones directly in line for rewards associated with the exceptional accomplishment of such tasks. For the employees to reasonably shoulder responsibility, it will be accompanied by adequate authority transfer. That said, the delegating authority is holds the ultimate responsibility for the tasks.
Accountability: This is the expectation that explanations for variations between the set task outcomes and the actual execution will be forthcoming from the employee to whom a task was delegated. This is inescapable since it stems from the responsibility. It means adhering to the set standards and being innovative.
As authority moves from top to bottom, responsibility moves from bottom up. Accountability stems from responsibility and thus flows upwards.
For example, if ‘A’ is assigned a task with enough authority and delegates to ‘B’, ultimate responsibility and accountability rests with ‘A’ but ‘B’ will still be responsible and accountable to ‘A’.
Delegation can result in tangible and non-tangible benefits for businesses including saving time, money and reducing burnout.
Research has demonstrated that poor delegation could achieve the inverse; increase employee burnout and tardiness, demotivation, confuse teams and eventually contribute to high turnover.
To ensure successful delegation, managers must abide by some key guidelines that have been identified.
To get you started on your journey to successful delegation, we conducted extensive research on some of the key guidelines of delegation that successful managers have been implementing.
Below are the 10 rules of successful delegation which every manager must have up their sleeves.
1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT PERSON OR TEAM
As a manager, you ought to have learnt, to some extent, the characteristics, personalities, strengths and weaknesses of your employees.
You have to identify those that seem to be most passionate about taking more responsibility, leading teams or a new project.
A good candidate can be someone who has expressed similar interest before and proven to be innovative.
Ensure you engage the employee early enough so that you allow them some time to consider the impact the new responsibilities could have. Be prepared to address their most pressing concerns.
It is also prudent to ensure that the employee you choose has the time to accomplish the task in addition to their daily roles. Do not overburden them.
Consider their career goals and how their roles might change if you hand over the task to them.
This is also an opportunity for your staff to show other strengths that you might not have been aware of.
You can also look at it as a way to build on the team’s skillset.
Many business owners have groomed their managers this way because they were able to mold them by delegating tasks from when they were at junior levels.
Chances are this will also happen in your organization, so it is absolutely critical that you get started with the right people.
2. LET GO
The next most important principle of successful delegation is the ability to let go.
From the very definition of delegation, it is only beneficial if the manager can free up time to concentrate on higher level tasks such as leadership and strategy development.
You must get to the level where you can trust your team to accomplish the tasks as you would have or even better without your interference.
After all, you hired the best talent already and you decided on the best person to take over the task.
Delegation is on the right track if managerial staff are able to work effortlessly with their subordinates in meeting the accomplishment of day to day deliverables.
This involves trusting your staff’s skills and talents as well as their commitment to get the job done.
Letting go means that once you have delegated a task to a subordinate, you should not keep checking over their shoulder to see if they are doing right.
This will only waste your time and beats the point of delegation. It is actually better not to delegate a task rather than delegate and then keep following up on the task every now and then.
It is imperative that you respect your employee’s autonomy; supervise, support and be ready to give guidance where necessary, but give them the space to work on the task.
This will actually make your employees more confident in their abilities.
3. CLARITY IS CRITICAL
No one likes unclear instructions or messages.
They will most often leave people confused and can be demotivating, especially at the workplace.
Don’t be that kind of manager who often leaves people wondering ‘what exactly am I supposed to do?’
You cannot afford to be economical with the details here even when you think the employee can figure it out. Make sure the task requirements are clearly spelt out, as well as the deadlines.
You should also explain the reason for delegating the task to the team or individual that you are entrusting the task to.
This is actually an opportunity to inject confidence in them as they take over.
Confirm that the understanding is shared and that all their questions are answered.
If you are not clear with your employee, it is quite possible they could get the impression that work is being dumped on them arbitrarily.
The ramifications of a hurried and ambiguous delegation process are quite obvious.
The employee might get it wrong and the workload you were trying to shed off will back on your desk.
Worse, important deadlines might be missed and revenue and clients lost.
4. WHAT IS IN IT FOR THEM?
If you are going to delegate to someone then you have to have to spell out what benefits they will accrue from taking on this responsibility.
A study conducted by the University of Columbia showed that employees will respond more positively to delegation if they are well aware of the inherent benefits specific to the new tasks they are required to take over.
As reported by the study, managers can weave the benefits language around the themes of empowerment, autonomy and increased visibility for the concerned employees.
You wouldn’t expect workers to be overly enthusiastic about taking up new responsibilities, and possibly more working hours with no added benefits at a time when employees are trying to prioritize work-life balance.
A similar study conducted on firms across California also showed that employees are more likely to take over tasks when there are tangible benefits.
The study also revealed that delegating can boost employee’s excitement for work because they usually think of the practice as a grooming technique.
5. PROVIDE RESOURCES
It would be detrimental to give your staff tasks and deny them the resources they need to accomplish them. As a wise business manager, you need to plan for this even before delegating.
As you are thinking of the task at hand and the person or team that is going to perform the task, you need to think of the resources that they will use to get the task done.
You also need to consider what other resources they might require.
When supervising the team or checking up on their progress, be sure to also check on how well the resources at hand are working for them.
Among the challenges that many managers have faced include details about the location, equipment, time, budgetary approximations and horizontal/vertical collaborations that sometimes discourage managers from delegating.
Nevertheless, with a well-prepared delegation plan, a manager will ace through this crucial part of delegation. S
ome of the tools available to help you with resource allocation include, Slack, Evernote, and Wunderlist, among many others that you can easily find online.
6. COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY
Effective communication is critical to delegation and is a critical component accounting for many of the success rules outlined in this article.
Be sure to communicate and check in with the person or team that you have chosen.
Ensure that you check on the progress of the work but do not micromanage. Remember you are there only as an overseer and a facilitator.
If your employees feel pressured to act like they are working, then the delegation process will fail.
Clearly state your expectations, goals and deadlines. This is also your opportunity to get to know your employees and build long-term relationships that will ensure successful collaboration and alignment with company goals.
Listen to them and ensure that they know you are listening by giving them feedback on their contributions, complains and suggestions.
Do not only communicate when you are giving them the guidelines but also praise them when they accomplish something.
This will pump their energies and they will be motivated to continue impressing you with their work.
7. BE PATIENT AND UNDERSTANDING
Growing an employee into the shoes of a new task is quite similar to raising children.
You should always be ready for mistakes because they will definitely happen.
You need to be patient as they grow up and understand that they are young and bound to make mistakes that you would not do.
Nevertheless, with the right amount of guidance, children will grow and become their own individuals capable of handling their own business.
Similarly, with delegating you might think that you could do it better and faster by yourself.
But as their leader, you are thinking about the future and the implication this new set of skills your team is acquiring could have on longer-term business goals.
As such, your patience comes with a willingness to advice, suggest approaches and providing for room to make mistakes.
Remember that even though you have delegated, you are still responsible for the outcomes of the task.
Be prepared to explain the task at hand giving details and answering questions which some inexperienced managers would view as time consuming.
You are better off viewing this time as an opportunity to learn more about your team and let the team learn more about your thought process so that you can work effortlessly with each other eventually.
8. DO NOT OVER-DELEGATE
As we have discussed, delegating is beneficial for both management and staff!
Contrary to retrogressive opinion, delegating is not just the practice of dumping every other extra load on subordinates but an opportunity to grow employees, the management and the overall company.
As such, managers need to be cautious not to fall into the trap of delegating too many tasks such that it beats the entire point of wanting to delegate.
You must take into account the talent pool available at your disposal, creativity levels and the time implication.
As a guide, you shouldn’t delegate the following;
- Routine tasks – while there is an exception to this rule, you want to best use your employs talents in the most profitable way for the company and not filling paperwork.
- Crises – you are the leader here and there is not time your team needs your expertise and authority than during a crisis.
- Ambiguous tasks – if a task for whatever reason seams ill-defined, it cannot then be passed on to a subordinate.
- Confidential issues – you are probably best trained to handle such matters that require sensitivity.
- Reprimand or praise – this has to come from you if it is to have the desired effect.
- Team development plan – while the team’s input is absolutely necessary, as the leader, this falls on your corner.
If you keep finding yourself increasingly not up to speed with team deliverables, getting last minute updates and not well aware of team priorities, you have probably been delegating more than you should have.
You are duty bound to reevaluate how much guidance and structuration you are giving your team and take back some essential control.
A good way to determine what tasks to delegate and which ones you need to handle yourself is to use a delegation matrix.
9. SHARE REWARDS AND APPRECIATE YOUR TEAM
Once the task is complete, do not metamorphose into an ungrateful leper and take the credit as solely yours.
Recognizing the efforts of your staff will go a long way into improving their morale and commitment because they will feel valued.
A simple way to recognize their effort it to have an open appraisal meetings where you gather your staff and praise the employee or team responsible for accomplishing a task.
Make sure to spell out the inputs they made towards completing the duties delegated to them. Openly congratulate them for a job-well done.
If there are any material benefits accrued from the completed task, share it with them and you will be assured a long-term relationship with that team or individual.
10. EVALUATE! EVALUATE! EVALUATE!
Now the task is complete and you have appreciated your team. It is time to evaluate!
Evaluation is a must if you want to learn from the experience for a smoother one next time. It is time to sit down with your team and go through the task that they performed.
Ask about their expectations before beginning the task, their challenges, how they solved them and what they learnt from the experience.
Let this be the blueprint for the next time you delegate because it is practical and therefore applicable.
Collectively brainstorm on the solutions that can be applied for the challenges that occurred during the process.
Compare the results to the expected outcomes and the methods that you used to complete tasks.
Think of better techniques that you could have used. Think of other novel ideas. To ensure that none of this information is lost, document the evaluation process and set it aside for another day.
A Word of Caution
With these 10 rules, any manager can easily become a master of delegation.
Managers should however, take caution when delegating. You should know that some employees feel overburdened when given tasks and others might think that their boss just wants to offload.
A recent study, revealed that some employees just think of their bosses as lazy when they give them tasks that they could have done.
One employee said she had been willing to take on tasks but after a while saw that her boss seemed to be dumping his work on her, which she felt was very abusive.
You will therefore need to clarify these details to your staff so that they can view it as an opportunity for growth rather than a punishment.
Remember that delegation is not an easy process so do not expect it to be. Plan ahead of time in order to ensure a smooth process and better outcomes.
Make sure you delegate early to ensure that the team or individual has enough time to complete the task effectively.
Use your evaluation forms as a blueprint for when next you conduct the process.
Be sure to give delegation a chance and enjoy learning and growing with your employees.
Successful delegation is an arsenal for any manager or business leader and a proven technique that helps both management and staff to learn and grow. It is also an opportunity for managers to do the job that they were hired to – lead teams to complete tasks essential to achieving business objectives.
There is a famous business motto that says if a manager leaves a company and there is no one to effortlessly take over, then the manager did not complete her or his job description. Delegation is a manager’s main job.
The better a manager is at delegating, the better the team is.
The difference between successful managers and their counterparts is the ability to delegate and consolidate the work team in meeting company goals.
Once you have used these successful rules for delegating, you will become a better manager, you will save time, and your team will find opportunities to develop their skills as you entrust them with more and more responsibilities.
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