Getting Things Done by Delegating

When I was just a "pup" starting in business, my Dad shared a rule of management that I've never forgotten. He said, "Good management is getting the job done through other people." Indeed, the power of effective management comes not from the manager's effort alone, but from the sum of the efforts of the members of the work team.

Most managers know what needs to be done, and they're good at it, so they do it themselves. The problem here is that the boss can't do it all. Folks who need to be involved in everything are viewed as micromanagers, and employees of micromanagers accept less responsibility for their work because the boss is always doing it for them.

True managers assign the responsibility for completing tasks through delegation. For delegation to be effective, managers must give authority to their employees, and they need to ensure that those em-ployees have the resources necessary to complete the tasks effectively.

Of all of the people skills needed to run a successful business, delegation should be every manager's number one tool. So, why is delegating so hard for managers? There are many possible reasons: They feel they don't have the time. They don't trust their employees to complete their assignments correctly or on time. They've never taken the time to properly train employees in how to do their work. Or, they just don't know how to delegate.

But, it's critical that a manager learn to delegate well. Managers who successfully manage a team of workers, each of whom has specific responsibilities for a different aspect of the team's performance, will prove that they are ready for bigger and better challenges.

In addition, it's not in the manager's best interest, the best interest of the team or the company for the boss to try to do it all. Regardless of how good the manager is or how many hours he or she works the boss has to delegate to maximize the performance and productivity of all of the employees. The manager's job is to focus on the things that he or she can do that the staff can't do.

Delegation also gets the employees more involved. When you give responsibility and authority to employees, they respond by becoming more involved in the operation of the business.

It also gives managers the chance to develop their employees. If managers make all of the decisions and come up with all of the ideas, the employees will never take the initiative and be responsible for seeing tasks through to their successful completion.

No EXCUSES
Over the years, I've heard too many reasons why managers don't delegate.

  • "I can't trust my employees to be responsible." You selected your employees because you thought they were talented people who were deserving of your trust. Your job is to give them your trust with no strings attached.
  • "When I delegate, I lose control of the task and its outcome." If you delegate properly, you don't lose control.
  • "I'm really the only one who knows how to do the job." Shame on you if you believe that. Your employees bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to work with them every day. Use it!
  • "I can do the work faster and better myself." While this might be true, is that a reason for you to do all the cleaning and carrying out of the garbage? Teach your people how to do their jobs and let them do them.
  • "If I delegate, it will dilute my authority." Actually, delegation does exactly the opposite it extends your authority.'
  • "My employees will get the recognition for doing a great job, and I won't." As a boss, you want to be recognized for attaining organizational goals through the efforts of others.
  • "My employees are too busy." If they truly are too busy and it's all good productive work being accomplished at a high level of performance, you may need to hire more staff or spread the workload. But, the odds are the manager is just using that as a cop-out. The boss probably doesn't want to delegate more work because he or she is in the bad habit of doing too much.
  • "My workers don't see the big picture." No, and they won't unless you show it to them.
    Make your employees a part of the "big picture," rather than just the little pieces.

Effective delegating

Okay, we've reviewed a lot of the excuses that managers use when they don't delegate. Let's look at several steps to effective delegation:

1. First, you have to communicate the task. You have to describe exactly what you want done, when you want it done, and what end results you expect.

2. Next, you have to furnish context for the task. That means explaining why the job needs to be done, its importance in the overall picture and any possible complications that may arise.

3. You have to determine standards. Agree on the standards you will use to measure the success of the task's completion. These standards have to be realistic and attainable.

4. Grant authority. You must give the employee the authority necessary to complete the task.

5. You will need to provide support. Determine the resources necessary for the employee to complete the task and then provide them. It may require money, training, advice and other resources.

6. Finally, get a commitment. Make sure the employee has accepted the assignment. Confirm your expectations and the employee's understanding of the commitment to complete the task.

Clearly, delegation benefits both employees and managers alike when it's done properly. While it's the manager's prerogative to delegate almost any task, some things should be routinely delegated to employees, and some things should never be delegated.

Tasks that should always be delegated include detail work, information gathering and repetitive assignments, time-consuming tasks that can be easily done by someone other than the manager. Items such as long-term vision and goals, performance evaluations, discipline and counseling, politically sensitive situations and confidential or sensitive issues should not be delegated, but instead handled by the boss.

So, remember, good management is getting the job done through other people, and learning how to be a good delegator will make you a better manager. Make sure you have this all-important tool in your manager's toolbox.

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