Delegation is often described as an art rather than a science. It is certainly a skill to be mastered and this skill means mastering the ability of ‘letting go.’
Managers frequently have too many things on their ‘to-do’ lists to finish in a day. If you find yourself habitually working late or simply overwhelmed by too much to do, you are not alone. But there are a number of things that managers should not be doing. When you delegate the right things in the right way, you will not only increase the output of your team but also get a better job done than if you try to do everything yourself.
The first step is to identify those things that your staff could be doing instead of you. The things managers most like doing themselves are often the things that can be most effectively delegated and the hardest to let go. But are their routine tasks that could be effectively mastered by a member of the team or other opportunities for growth and development of staff?
But what is it about delegation that makes it a skill that seems difficult to master, not just for new managers but those at senior level too? Being aware of the psychological barriers that can get in the way is an important step in mastering the art: being worried for example, that the member of staff may not do the delegated task as well as the manager, or more perhaps that they will do an even better job and outshine the manager are common misapprehensions. Managers need to face their fears and realise that if they delegate to the right person and give opportunities for their staff to innovate and shine it will ultimately enhance their performance and reputation as well.
Some tips to help along the way:
- Stop doing and start managing. Avoid delegating at the last minute, to avoid unnecessary pressure and to allow time for planning.
- Carefully consider the skills, aspirations, strengths and capabilities of your staff before delegating and ensure they have the right support and resources to succeed.
- Delegate the task to one person and ensure they have the authority to make decisions within the boundaries of the task. Brief everyone else in the team so that there is clarity about accountability.
- Agree clear goals, timescales and measurable progress steps along the way. Be clear about what is expected and who else may need to give input and support.
- Provide the right level of support and interest in the progress of the delegated task. Do not over-check or interfere giving the impression of lack of trust. Help with resources needed to complete the task and be willing to make yourself a resource as well if necessary.
- If there is slippage or things go wrong, don’t just take the task back but find ways of guiding and helping to plug any gaps.
- Celebrate and recognise achievement – not just at the end of the task but at the different steps along the way.