Effective delegation can save the day

August 18, 2009 -  By

By: Bill Hoopes

How do you organize and assign tasks and responsibilities? Are you coaching a team of co-operative players with developing skills, or are you bossing a group of robots?

In our economy, we all agree that getting maximum productivity is important to your bottom line. But making that happen is something that, as a long-time industry trainer, I rarely see. More commonly, I find managers spending far too much valuable time on tasks and activities better suited to growing, developing employees. Because management time is at a premium, building a truly productive team requires that managers learn to delegate.

Why don’t more of us delegate? Typically, it’s not that managers don’t want to take advantage of the extra help — to know that, when things get hectic, they have backup. Rather, it’s a matter of never learning the process. Most of us, working for “bosses” who simply assigned work, typically have not been taught to delegate.

No harm, no foul. Do it now! Below, I’ve bullet pointed a practical, workable sequence of actions every manager can use now to take advantage of this key management tool.

  • Decide where you need help most. Options include project planning, process improvement, specific problem-solving, training and development or mentoring new employees.
  • Evaluate your staff members. Look at each individual’s attitude about growing, taking on more responsibility, current skill level, potential to learn and motives. Screen out any management-created roadblocks that would prevent success, like changing course in mid-stream or not allowing necessary time to complete assignments.
  • Communicate with the team. Explain what you are undertaking and emphasize individual employee benefits tied to delegation. After all, it’s a wonderful opportunity for your people to grow! You may be surprised at how some workers jump at the chance to be seen as more valuable, to become tomorrow, more than they are today.

Before you go further, be sure you clearly understand the difference between delegating and assigning work. Obviously, because your staff will include both new and veteran people, you must use common sense in deciding how much each person should be asked or allowed to take on.

New workers are assigned tasks. Why? Because they are not usually ready for more and your aim is early success. Veterans, on the other hand, can take part in a true delegation process. So, you are matching the work with individual worker capability.

Once the delegation process is in place and effective, you may want to delegate team responsibilities.

An important factor to consider addresses the manner in which you, as the leader, interact and communicate expectations. With new folks, you are directive. You train for specific skills and assign work in those specific areas. With more accomplished veterans, you will be become more consultative. You’ll discuss options vs. simply telling someone what to do. Your interactive communication style will be an important part of your delegation process.

Now, with needs outlined and planned and staff evaluated, follow this procedure:

  • Communicate individual tasks/responsibilities. Make initial goals reasonable, and be sure to allow necessary time. Provide tools and support needed. Remember, with accomplished veterans, this meeting is a discussion, not a one-way monologue. Ask for input and ideas at this point.
  • Get individual employee commitment to meeting your expectations.
  • Agree on how and when performance will be measured, and by whom.
  • Consistently monitor progress. Use your judgment when deciding how often to observe, measure and react. If delegated work is in a completely new area for the employee, stay closer to the action.
  • Meet regularly with individuals and/or teams. Provide any course correction necessary; recognize and acknowledge positive performance.

Once a delegated responsibility is complete, summarize, reward and take the process to the next higher level.

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