Delegation is one of the key aspects of leadership and management and one of the kingpins in the development of human capital throughout the organisation, a skill that can be learnt, but one that is often mismanaged.
Taken at its root, delegation is defined in most dictionaries as :
1. The act of delegating, or investing with authority to act for another; the appointment of a delegate or delegates.[1913 Webster}
However, there are many instances where delegation results in the giving of mundane or repetitive tasks to another person to fulfill with very little notion of authority – well as long as things are going well.
Conversely, when things tun out badly, the authority comes tumbling down from above on the delegee, who usually takes full responsibility for ‘failure’ resulting from delegation.
Now, this is not delegation at all – no matter how we look at it.
Delegation has many benefits for both manager and team – if a manager does not
delegate there are several clear results that will ensue: the team will be largely idle,
inefficient, demoralised, stagnant and the manager will be overloaded.
Newly promoted managers are often loathe to delegate as they try to prove that they
can do their job, delegation being perceived as a form of weakness or an inability
to do their job, or that the feeling pervades that they are the best person for the job.
The act of delegating is a way of putting heads together, using more than one brain to
complete tasks and solve problems – it helps raise motivation in the team and gives a
manager an excellent view of the abilities in the team.
If we return to dictionary definitions – a manager is a person who manages people and
tasks – ensuring that the job gets done, not necessarily doing the job, otherwise they
would be called “doers”.
One of the key aspects of managing is developing the skills of team members, whilst
ensuring that work is distributed evenly according to the skills and abilities available.There is sometimes a danger that a manager will create tensions in a team by
delegating to people whom they consider are trustworthy to execute tasks,
whilst not delegating to those they do not trust – the ideal is to be able to
develop members of the team by instilling trust.
There are risks involved, of course, but a manager should be able to evaluate the
risks alongside the gains of delegating as long as it is done logically, there should be
minimal risks, keeping in mind that certain tasks and authority will not be able to
Tasks that fall into this category will probably be recruitment, sacking or dismissals,
disciplinary issues, salary issues and regulations and general policy.
If you, as a manager, delegate a task to a team member, you will delegate the
authority to do the task but you will be ultimately responsible for the execution
of the task, on schedule and correctly.
It is a fairly straightforward process that many managers already do without
really thinking about it, we call it the STAR process:
1. Select the person for the task who has the necessary skills to carry out the task.
2. Ensure that the person you have selected has sufficient time to carry out the task,
not only the task in question, but also in view of their existing workload.
3. The person to who a task is delegated must be invested with sufficient authority
to carry out the task and it is important that others are aware of this too, especially
if they work in a transversal role or in project mode.
4. Responsibility for the completion of the task is ultimately the manager’s.
However, the delegee needs to have a certain level of responsibility to the manager
for the completion of the task.
One of way of overcoming this is to be very clear that both credit and failure will be
shared by the manager and the team member.
Very often, credit is given to the manager, when things turn out well with little recognition
for the person who executed the task – this needs to be addressed in order that delegation
becomes a natural team phenomena.
When tasks have been delegated it is very important that communication becomes a two-way
process between delegator and delegee to ensure that tasks can be followed through their
duration and that contingency plans can be anticipated where necessary.
It is also important that delegation becomes part of the people development process,
feedback, planning, goal and action step setting are necessary to ensure that those that
are learning are helped to develop, whilst developing other members into roles where
they develop skills through delegation.
Basically the process involves the following:
WHAT – Determine the tasks that can be delegated.
WHEN – Clarify the results that you expect, along with the timescale for the completion of tasks.
HOW – Empower the team member to carry out the tasks in the way that they see most appropriate
– don’t dictate How you want things doing, this will destroy all notion of autonomy that you
are trying to build.
WHERE – Define the boundaries of responsibility, ensuring that this is clearly understood
by the team member.
Set up communication channels and how you will feed back and touch base on the delegated tasks.
Communicate to others, especially if you are working in project or transverse roles, the scope and
range of the authority given to the team member accomplish the task.
Avoid reversals in delegation, where the team member re-delegates the tasks to others or attempts
to dump the delegation back on the manager.
If the manager takes tasks back, they could damage the confidence that was gained in the person
and provoke imbalance in the team, where relationships within the team and with management
could be damaged.
Delegation has numerous benefits, it is a two-way process that helps :
Develop team member skills
Implicate team members in the work of the company / department
Give managers time to network / benchmark with other managers
Improve relationships and confidence in the team
Share workloads more evenly
Evaluate the skills and competences in the team
Give learning opportunities to team members
If you want to have more quality time for yourself and for your team, whilst developing the
skills and the autonomy of your team – delegate now!
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