How delegation helps grow your business
Have you ever been presented with a problem and felt you were the only one who could solve it? Humm – is that always the best way to tackle a problem?
If you are serious about growing a business, then you need to grow yourself and your people first. If you don’t learn to delegate, you are not only stifling the development of your leadership and management skills, you stifle the growth of your people.
To be effective as a leader or manager, you must learn to delegate and empower others. By doing this you not only grow your business, you grow yourself because you are driving your business instead of working in it.
A key skill for anyone in business is to learn the art of delegation. It is impossible to grow your business without having to put your trust in other people and let them take responsibility. There is no other skill that will help grow your business to the same degree as learning to delegate effectively.
What is delegation?
Delegation is when responsibility and authority is assigned from one person to another, normally from a manager or supervisor to a subordinate. The person who delegates to another is still accountable for the outcome.
Delegation is the opposite of micromanagement, which is where a manager provides too much input and direction of delegated tasks.
Many people new to the art of delegation confuse delegation with abdication or allocation. They are all very different.
How delegation differs from allocation and abdication?
The way delegation differs from allocation and abdication has to do with how much responsibility and authority the person has who is being delegated to.
Abdication (eyes and hands off)
Abdication is where you entrust responsibility, authority and absolve yourself from accountability. Staff are totally responsible for all outcomes and have the authority to make decisions. In other words, you take baby down to the water, throw him in and leave. You come back later to see if he could swim. If he couldn’t tough luck!
Allocation (eyes on hands on)
Allocation is where you deal out responsibility for a task but without authority. Staff are given responsibility but not allowed to make final decisions. In other words, you take baby down to the water and hold him to make sure he can swim by keeping an eye on him and make sure he doesn’t drown.
You give staff full responsibility and give them the authority to make a decision or take action. In other words, you take baby down to the water, make sure he can swim and keep an eye on him from a distance.
- Go away and do (…..) then don’t come back to me and I will make the full decision
- Go away and investigate (…..) then come back to me with options and I will decide
- Go away and investigate (…..) then give me some options and I will decide
- Go away and do it – let me know what you did
- Go away and do it – you don’t have to come back to me at all
The key thing to remember when you are delegating, you still retain responsibility. All you are doing is assigning a task to another person who has the ability to perform that task. The degree of authority needs to be adequate enough to ensure their ability to complete the task or project successfully. Without the appropriate level of authority, they will not be able to accomplish the results you are looking for.
Why do I need to delegate?
Delegation can help build the skills of your team and motivate employees. It can also help save you time and money. If you don’t delegate, you won’t open your mind to new opportunities.
In order to grow your business, it is important to work on your business, not in your business. This means focusing your energies on planning and developing your business along with your people. The most effective way to achieve this is to delegate routine and operational tasks to employees who are equally capable of performing those roles.
As a team, a group can achieve more than a single individual and it teaches your team to be more self-sufficient. The more self-sufficient your team is, the more you can devote your time to building and growing your business, allowing you more time for strategic thinking and planning.
Delegating to staff also empowers them and builds their capability by up skilling them. This gives them responsibility, which helps motivation and leads to greater job satisfaction and increased morale.
There are four main reasons to delegate.
- You have more work than you can handle in the time available
- You don’t have enough time for your priority tasks
- You believe the task can be done better by someone else which saves you money as they don’t cost as much
- You want to develop an employee’s skills, competencies and confidence
Why managers don’t delegate?
Managers generally don’t delegate through fear. They fear that the person being delegated to will fail. Yes, there is a certain amount of risk attached to delegating tasks. The greater risk is not being able to grow your business by building a team you can trust your business with. Not delegating shows poor leadership and an unwillingness to develop their team.
Other reasons managers don’t delegate are:
- They think they can do everything themselves
- They don’t trust others or have a feeling of insecurity
- It takes time to delegate, they feel it’s quicker to do it yourself
- There is a lack of planning or lack of skill
- They don’t have time
- Arrogance or ego
- Poor systems and processes
- They feel guilty passing work on
- They enjoy doing the task themselves
- They don’t want others getting the credit
When should you delegate
Believing you can perform a job better yourself is not a good reason not to delegate. So keep in mind the bigger picture of what you want to achieve. Ask yourself, if I delegate this task:
- Will it contribute to the achievement of your vision, purpose, goals and objectives?
- Will it give me more time to focus on the bigger picture?
- Will it allow me to develop the skills and ability of my team?
- Will it allow my team to provide a different solution that may be more innovative?
If the answer is yes, then you should consider delegating the task or project. Keep in mind, there is more to delegation than offloading tedious work to someone else. If you dump the drudgery and low-interest level work to high performing employees, you can’t expect them to be properly motivated or happy for any period of time.
In the first instance it is best to delegate routine and planned tasks along with tasks your staff have expressed an interest in performing.
What you should or shouldn’t delegate
Not everything in your business should be delegated. Delegation should free you up from:
- Routine matters
- Not urgent and not important matters
- Matters best done by others with appropriate skills
- Matters that make you over-specialized
- Special projects that can develop your team
You should not delegate:
- Confidential, personal matters, counselling
- Dealing with performance issues
- Performance reviews
- Praising others – acknowledging good work
How to delegate effectively?
Before you delegate something, ask yourself “should I be doing this job?” Is there someone else with the skills and knowledge who can do this job more efficiently and more cost effectively?
If you do choose to delegate a task or project, then you must plan thoroughly to give you the best chance of success. Identify the right person who has the skills, time and interest to do the job. Establish appropriate levels of authority and responsibility along with reporting lines and delegate by giving a full briefing without holding back any information.
Identify the need
Establish what should be delegated by identifying a need to delegate. Know in your mind what you want the outcome to be.
Select the person
Identify who you will delegate to. Think about why you are choosing them and if you have confidence in them to complete the task.
Plan the delegation
Determine where you are now and where you want to go as a result of delegating to someone else.
Hold a delegation meeting
Hold a delegation meeting to clearly identify what you want the result to be and when you need it done. Outline clearly the rules and limitations along with your expectations. Review the performance standards and check for understanding. Review the criteria for clarity and agreement. Set the milestones that need to be reported back on.
The person being delegated to needs to also plan how they will go about completing the task or project.
Conduct progress reviews
The person should then have the opportunity to complete the task of project you have delegated to them. Set a series of completion targets and dates then follow up and keep them accountable for all previously agreed milestones. Concentrate on the critical factors that have been agreed upon and don’t get too involved in the details.
Reward and evaluate
Throughout the delegation process ensure you praise the person for doing a good job privately and publicly. If you do need to correct behaviors, do this privately. Evaluate how well your employee did and also evaluate yourself how well you managed the process. Conducting a review will identify what went well and what could be improved upon in the future.
Holding a delegation meeting
How well the delegation process goes comes back to how well you planned and executed the delegation. A critical part of that process is having the delegation meeting. Depending on the skill sets and experience the person has you are delegating to will determine how often you need to meet to review progress and what levels of authority you will give them.
In a delegation meeting ensure you cover off the following:
- Outline in detail the task or project to be delegated
- Ensure you cover off on all details
- Provide clear goals so they know exactly what is expected of them
- Focus on the outcome not the process
- Give them full responsibility and authority
- Explain the resources that will be available to them
- Discuss time frames and set realistic deadlines
- Discuss the review and monitoring requirements
- Ask if they have any questions
How to keep people accountable?
A common problem with keeping people accountable in the delegation process is to “buy the problem back” or keep the problem in “Limbo.”
Buying it back
Buying it back is commonly known as keeping the monkey on your back. Instead of allowing your people to complete the task delegated to them, you take responsibility back by responding as follows:
- Let me think about ….
- Leave it here and I will ….
- I’ll check with ….
- I’ll draft the ….
- I’ll let you know when…
The problem with buying it back is the delegation process becomes null and void. You end up still managing the task or project, which stalls progress. By putting something in limbo you are delaying progress. Either way you are sending a message to your employee that you either don’t trust them or they really aren’t accountable which is demotivating to the employee you delegated to.
Putting it in limbo
Putting something in limbo means progress is slowed because no decisions get made. It means you have only partially delegated by responding as follows:
- See me later about …
- Send me an email and then I ….
- Why don’t you check with ….?
- Draft up a proposal and let me ….
To establish accountability and give confidence to the person you delegated to – use phrases like:
I know you will get it done ….
- I am counting on you to ….
- What is your plan for ….?
- I delegated to you because ….
- What are you going to do about …?
By establishing accountability, you send a message to the employee you delegated to that you trust them and have confidence in their ability to follow through on what was agreed.
How to review the delegation process
Once the task or project is complete, it’s time to review what went right, what went wrong and what could you improve on. Firstly, thank the team member/s for their efforts and give them any recognition they deserve. Then ask for their feedback either in a written format, individually or in a group.
The questions you could ask are:
- Did you delegate to the right person?
- Did they have the skills and knowledge needs to complete the job?
- Did you provide clear goals?
- Did they clearly understand what your expectations were?
- Were they given the right resources at the right time?
- Did they the necessary support?
- Were the timelines realistic?
- What went well?
- What challenges did they face and how do they overcome these?
- What could they improve upon in the future?
On a Final Note
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