Effective Delegation

"The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it." - Theodore Roosevelt

Like those involved in 12-step programs, we who seek excellence in our organizations must first admit that we are powerless - powerless to do it all ourselves! True success is going to require the efforts of many people.

Whether we are working with paid staff, volunteers, board committees or outsourced providers, the ability to effectively delegate is essential. As I write this, I fear my audience is largely those who would LOVE to join the choir on this concept, but who don't really trust that others will "get the job done." Perhaps the problem isn't "others," but rather our own shortcomings in delegation. If this is your situation, consider the following tips on delegation.

Hesitate to Delegate?

According to Mind Tools.com, we hesitate to delegate due to:

1. Lack of time. In the early stages, you may need to invest time in training people. Jobs may take longer than they do for you. But, with the right people, this investment of coaching will pay off and the demand for your time will become minimal.

2. Perfectionism/fear of mistakes. You will have to let people make mistakes and help them to correct them. Most people will, with time, learn to do jobs properly.

3. “I enjoy getting my hands dirty." While you can get jobs done effectively, your organization will be seriously inefficient if everyone else is standing idle. Bear in mind the cost of your time when you are tempted to do a job yourself.

4. Fear of surrendering authority, fear of becoming invisible. While loss of some "power" is inevitable, you will hardly become invisible! Effective delegation provides the benefit of adequate time to do YOUR job really well, including having the time to think and plan and improve operations.

5. Belief that others are "not up to the job." Delegation often brings out the best in other performers. Even incompetent people can be effective, providing they find their niche. The only people to whom you cannot reliably delegate are those whose self-opinions of their abilities are so inflated that they will not cooperate.

Note that it is common for people who are newly promoted to have difficulty with delegation. Often, you have been promoted because you were good at what you previously were doing. This carries the temptation to continue doing your previous job, rather than developing new subordinates to do the job well.

What Should You Delegate?

There are numerous considerations when determining the tasks that should be delegated; according to The Alban Institute and Time Management Guide.com, these include:

1. Tasks that can be done better by someone else. Delegate those responsibilities that others are naturally better than you by virtue of raw talent, education/training or temperament.

2. Tasks that can be done at a lower cost than doing yourself. If you are concerned that a poorer job will be completed, ask yourself if another can do it at least 80 percent as well as you would, or if can you train another to do it as well as you.

3. Tasks that are time critical, but not a high priority. The urgency of a situation should not automatically make the task a high priority for you. Delegate the task to someone else who is prepared to handle the urgency of the situation and for whom the task is appropriate.

4. Tasks of appropriate difficulty. The person to whom you are delegating should feel challenged but not overwhelmed. Craft the task so that learning mistakes are likely to occur, but self-confidence and/or reputation are not destroyed.

5. Both pleasant and unpleasant tasks. Unpleasant tasks should be rotated fairly among people, with you keeping a portion of unpleasant tasks to demonstrate your willingness to be of service.

6. Tasks that are not central to your role within the organization. Never delegate a task that is central to your role, even if it is not technically difficult to perform.

How Should Tasks be Delegated?

The websites of Gettsyburg College, Paauwerfully Organized and Mind Tools.com provide these thoughts on how to delegate in a manner that will bring success to your project:

1. Delegate the objective and intended result, not the procedure.

2. Delegate responsibility, not work. Too many managers confuse delegating responsibility with offloading work to someone else. When assigning a project, allow some freedom for the assignee to exercise some personal initiative.

3. Delegate complete jobs. It is much more satisfying to work on a single task than on fragments of the task. If you delegate a complete task to a capable assignee, you are more likely to receive a more tightly-integrated outcome.

4. Select capable, willing people. Able, experienced and reliable people will carry out large jobs with no intervention from you. Inexperienced or unreliable people will need close supervision to get a job done to the correct standard. But if you coach and encourage, allowing them to practice, you may improve their ability to carry out larger and more complex tasks without close supervision.

5. Explain how the task fits into the overall picture of what you are trying to achieve. Ensure that you communicate the importance of the job, the expected results and deadlines for completion, the constraints within which it should be carried out, and internal reporting dates when you want progress reports.

6. Rather than asking, "Do you understand?" ask questions such as, "Any ideas as to how you'll proceed?" You'll get a better sense of whether or not your request is clear.

What is the Best Way to Follow Up on Delegated Tasks?

Mind Tools.com provides these ideas on how to proceed after you've delegated a task:

1. Let go! Once you have decided to delegate a task, let the assignee get on with it. Review the project on the agreed reporting dates, but do not otherwise look over his/her shoulders. Recognize that others may know a better (or equally effective) way of doing a task. Accept that one of the best ways for others to learn is through making mistakes, and that your job is to make certain that these mistakes are not fatal to the project.

2. Provide help and coaching when requested. It is important to support your assignee when having difficulties, but do not do the job for him/her; if you do, the confidence required to do the job will not be developed.

3. Accept only finished work. You have delegated a task to take a work load off you. By accepting partially completed jobs, you will have to invest time to finish the job, and others will not get the experience they need in completing projects.

4. Give credit when a job has been successfully completed. Recognition both reinforces the success and sets a standard for others.

Strong Leaders / Strong Stories

Strong leaders have strong stories, and a solid sense of "self" as a leader.  But too often, even strong women view themselves or are perceived as being very good at "getting things done," but not as valuable strategic resources. What can you do to change this?  Find Out More Here