Ellen Warden, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
WorkPlace Synergy, LLC
“Your most important task as a leader is to teach people how to think and ask the right questions so that the world doesn’t go to hell if you take a day off.”
– Jeffrey Pfeffer, Stanford University Professor and author
Delegation is a critical skill. You know it’s important to do and you know it will save you time and help others develop new skills. It’s an important factor in staff morale and job satisfaction. Your team will become more involved in helping to achieve your firm’s objectives and goals. So why aren’t you doing it? Do any of these reasons sound familiar?
- You are too busy to delegate — it’s more efficient for you to just do it yourself.
- Your work is better than everyone else.
- You’ve been burned in the past.
- No one else has the necessary skills, motivation, commitment, or (fill in the blank____) to do the job properly.
- You feel guilty about giving work to an already overworked staff.
- You need to make yourself indispensable.
- You really like what you do and enjoy doing it yourself.
If you find yourself buried in work and your staff is keeping regular hours with not enough to do, it’s time for you to drop the excuses. Here’s how:
- Choose the right people. You should be able to delegate some form of work to everyone on your team. Look for people who want to take ownership.
- Get a delegation attitude. Constantly ask yourself, “Who else could do this?”
- Make delegation part of your staff development plans. Look for what you can delegate and what skills your employees will need to be successful. Provide training and guidance.
- Empower your staff to hold you accountable. Allow them to call you out when you haven’t delegated something you could/should.
- Assign responsibility for results, rather than just unloading tasks. Define expectations and confirm understanding. What is the deadline and when will you want progress reports?
- Communicate delegation. Inform those who need to know that you have delegated this responsibility to ensure their cooperation with the employee to whom the task was delegated.
- Don’t micromanage. Develop your employees’ critical thinking skills and allow them to run with the new responsibility. But be sure to keep the lines of communication open and build in check-points to monitor progress. You are delegating, not abdicating.
- Provide feedback. Give plenty of positive reinforcement and coaching when needed.
- Identify lessons learned. Did the person with the new responsibility find a better way of doing things? What went well? What can be improved? How can you do a better job of helping him or her succeed?
It is not surprising that a lot of BV leaders loathe the thought of actually passing on a job to someone else. But that is not valuable long-term strategy. Delegating responsibility is a powerful statement to employees about how much they are trusted, how competent and valued you consider them to be to the firm. Once you start, effective delegation will become part of your managerial DNA and you will likely see your business flourish.