Delegation is crucial to effective management. Busy managers would always have so much to do and constraints of time – in some cases requisite expertise -may be inadequate. Delegate well, the manager is able to achieve so much within the time and knowledge constraints she has. Where not done or inappropriately done, undesirable consequences follow.
Delegation is not about allocating uninteresting tasks to others, but it is about assigning a job out of the many we have, so they could be completed timey and efficiently. It’s about meeting goals. But perhaps equally important, it is about encouraging people to learn new skills and reach their potential – in the process helping the organisation to grow and the manager being more effective. Remember, it is an indication of greatness when a leader consciously, intentionally and happily enables his employees to achieve and become capable and more productive. As Max de Pree puts it, “The measure of leadership is not the quality of the head, but the tone of the body”
The desire for certainty and control is deep-seated in most human beings. First, because it feels good to believe we are able to do things without being dependent on others – particularly those we feel are subordinate to us. Second, because we tend to feel highly accomplished when we are able to shape outcomes of events without help from others. While being in control of “all” things may be a good thing, an efficient manager must be able draw a line, beyond which his propensity for control can make him inefficient and consequently miserable.
Thankfully, delegation is an art. It’s a skill that can be – and should be developed, if lacking.
Benefits of delegation are numerous, among which are:
Why people find it difficult to delegate
With these enormous benefits, why does delegation remain one of the more difficult processes in management and leadership to be effectively accomplished? The reasons vary from fear, to ignorance, to distrust and ego.
Some leaders think delegating can be time-consuming. After all, they can get the task done in a few minutes rather than wait for the staff to undergo the learning curve. It often seems quicker to get the job done rather than take time to explain how to do it to someone else and then correct their mistakes after. On the contrary, when done correctly, many leaders are pleasantly surprised by the quality and speed with which the staff has gotten the job done. Truth is, when people know you trust them well enough to delegate an important task, they put their heart into it and it boosts their motivation to get the job done.
Some managers could be insecure in their positions and abilities so much so that they feel constantly threatened by the competence of their subordinates. In these situations, they are apprehensive about delegating tasks to the subordinates for fear of the subordinate taking the shine off them. They feel threatened that by the confidence of an employee who’s quick on the delegated task and delivered efficiently – thinking the employee may take over the role from them or be seen as a more competent staff. However, acknowledging the competence of a staff in certain regards is a mark of good leadership rather than a weakness. No one is a paragon of universal competence. We must therefore develop trust in the moment and realise that when we willingly and charismatically give authority, most people are appreciative and tend to return with loyalty.
Some people just want to be in charge and cannot let go. They constantly feel the need to make themselves indispensable. Such should realise that all leadership is temporary and transient as situations come to an end with time and circumstances.
Some managers are guilty of “excessive empathy”. They are reluctant to delegate to their subordinates certain jobs they consider tedious and would rather do them, even when they are weighed down themselves. Empathy is a good leadership virtue, no doubt. However, when it borders on making a leader ineffective, the lines need be drawn.
Similar to the above point, some leaders would see adding an additional task to the workload of a staff who’s having so much on his table as “inconsiderate”. This may not usually be appropriate. A leader must regularly evaluate the strengths of her staff and determine if there’s a need to reshuffle workloads, and give some of the tasks on his table to some certain staff while re-allocating some they at that moment have to other staff.
Some do not just know when and how to delegate. So, they’d rather do the job themselves.
While some of these reasons may be legitimate, the benefits of delegating as seen above are quite enormous, if done with good intentions, patience and more especially with a focus on longer term benefits.
How to delegate well
Effective delegation requires some planning. To delegate well and achieve results without stress, you need to consider the following.
Yes, delegation needs to be clearly thought out.
Either through verbal communication or your body language, assure the delegate of non-interference but assure of willingness and readiness to support, if required. The greatest enemy of delegation is micro-managing but the person delegating must also avoid abandonment. Remember, you are still accountable.
On completion of the task or at certain milestones agreed, the manager should review what has been done and offer suggestions on improvement.
Having completed the tasks, it’s important for you to acknowledge the efforts that your staff has put into the accomplishment of the task. Never take the shine off them by allotting the glory for a successful task or project to yourself. Always appreciate and thank them.
While some of these reasons may be legitimate, the benefits of delegating are enormous – if done with good intentions, patience and focus on mid-term and long term benefits – rather than short term needs/deliverables.
Delegation gets easier with time, practice, and staffing. Start to improve your delegation skills through proper training.
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