Delegation

by Phil Manington

Common questions

  1. What is the secret of good delegation?
  2. What are the benefits of delegating?
  3. How do I start?
  4. How do I work out what to delegate and what to keep myself?
  5. What do I do if the current culture is negative?
  6. How can I delegate and stay in control?
  7. How do I get my people to take responsibility and not keep coming back to me?

 

I don’t have to know everything. I don’t have to have all the customer contacts. I don’t have to make all the decisions. In fact, in the new world of business, it can’t be me, it shouldn’t be me, and my job is to prevent it from being me.

Mort Meyerson, CEO of Perot Systems

1. What is the secret of good delegation?

Delegation will be successful if you ensure that:

  • People have the right knowledge and experience for the task in hand
  • They are keen to develop and grow
  • They are clear what you want and why it is important
  • You let them get on with it in their own way
  • You trust them
  • You give them credit for their success
  • You let go...

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2. What are the benefits of delegating?

  • It reduces the cost of getting things done, by pushing tasks down to the most appropriate level in the organisation.
  • It provides opportunities for individuals to develop their careers and enrich their jobs.
  • It encourages people to take the initiative and look for solutions, rather than bringing you problems.
  • It will enable you to build a reputation as a manager with a highly motivated, high performing team – someone who not only gets things done, but is continually innovating and improving.
  • It is the means by which you can achieve all that will be demanded of you as a manager without having to work for 70 hours a week.
  • It contributes to the creation of an empowering culture.

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3. How do I start?

  • Start gradually.
  • Assess your work – what do you currently do that one of your team could do?
  • Match tasks to individuals – look at attitude, skill and experience.
  • Make sure they have everything they need for success.
  • Adopt a coaching role.

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4. How do I work out what to delegate and what to keep myself?

Delegate the following:

  • All tasks that you used to do before you were promoted
  • All tasks that someone in your team can do at least as well as you
  • All decisions where you can accept whatever conclusion is reached
  • As much as possible, to develop your staff.

Do not delegate

  • Unless you are not confident the delegatee will succeed
  • Anything where you might subsequently reverse a decision
  • Any people management tasks (motivation, performance appraisals, personal development plans, team-building and so on).

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5. What do I do if the current culture is negative?

Start by finding out why delegation is currently not seen in a positive light. Review the page Further barriers to successful delegation and identify the main causes – is it your boss, your team or the whole organisation? If it is the whole organisation, you may want to review whether its values fit with yours and consider your options. If you want to be able to delegate, you will need to change the culture first.

  • Treat this as a personal project. It will need plans, time and resources – probably a lot of yours – and cannot be done in your spare time.
  • Base your approach on your findings.
  • Enlist the help of as many influential people as you can.
  • Involve your boss as much as possible – especially if they are the problem.
  • Be clear about what you are trying to achieve and make sure that you can measure success. Changing people’s views is difficult and tends to happen gradually. When will you have succeeded? What evidence will you look for?
  • Assess the risks of failure. How will you decide if it is taking too much time or energy? Can you still achieve what you are being paid to deliver?

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6. How can I delegate tasks and stay in control?

One of the common objections to delegation is that, by giving others authority, a manager loses control. Typical statements include the following:

  • I know how to do the work and I don’t trust anyone in my team to do it as well
  • I don’t know how to do the work – I need to learn how to do it before delegating it
  • I’ve tried delegating before, staff have made mistakes and I have been blamed
  • Give people authority and they get carried away and exceed their responsibility
  • I delegate to some people and they don’t let me know when things are going wrong
  • My boss asks me about progress and I can’t answer them

These are all indications that delegation is not being carried out effectively. All these objections can be overcome by following the guidelines in this section. Good delegators always stay in control.

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7. How do I get my people to take responsibility and not keep coming back to me?

Sometimes you find that, even when you think you have delegated a task, your staff keep coming back to check things or to ask you to make each decision. Ask yourself:

  • Have we agreed exactly what their level of delegation is?
  • Is this person sufficiently experienced and confident to do this piece of work?
  • Am I giving them enough feedback that I trust them to do a good job?
  • Am I rescuing them too much – picking up potential issues, solving their problems and so on – rather than encouraging them to take the initiative?
  • Do I blame them when things go wrong?
  • Am I reversing any of their previous decisions, so they believe they must check everything first?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, you need to review how you are delegating and make some changes. The only way you will change their behaviour is by changing yours.

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