I ran across this blog post on the Management Skills Blog answering the question “What to Delegate, What to Self-Perform?” It’s a good post but I found myself wanting more detail. Delegation is an important activity. Managers who want to be successful, must learn how to delegate effectively.
Managers will never be able to move up within the organization, take an uninterrupted vacation, participate in a special project, or enjoy a day of training if they can’t delegate. Every time they leave their office, they will be pestered, emailed and voice mailed all day long. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes as managers, we have to be consulted about emergencies and out of the ordinary situations. But our teams should be able to handle a few days without us. In fact, if a manager is on vacation and an emergency happens, their employees should know who is around that they can consult – instead of contacting someone on vacation.
Delegation is such a critical skill, I decided to spend some time really thinking about the conditions that need to be present for a manager to delegate effectively. I realized there are two key situations when you should delegate:
When the working relationship is strong and trusting. Managers should have confidence that their employees can do the task. They need to tell employees that they are confident the employee will do a great job. It’s okay for there to be a little apprehension. It’s the first time a manager is delegating the task. It’s the first time the employee is doing the task on their own. But delegation is moving in the right direction when it’s perceived in a positive way and as a growth opportunity (versus the employee is being set up to fail.)
When the employee is ready to do the task. Managers need a working knowledge of the skills and abilities necessary to complete the work. An example would be if a manager wants to assign me to do a report. The report is completed in Microsoft Excel. Obviously, I need to know Excel in order to do the report. Managers will want to make sure that the employee is capable of doing all the individual parts before delegating. And if there’s some skill the employee is missing, then make sure they get the training necessary so they can feel comfortable completing the work.
So the next time you’re wondering, “Should I delegate that or do it myself?” Answer these three questions:
- Am I confident that the employee can do the work? We need to trust that our employees have pride in themselves and their work. They will work hard to accomplish the task.
- Is the employee capable of doing the work? They might not be perfect the first time they complete the assignment. But chances are, we weren’t either. Keep in mind, it’s also possible they will do a great job.
- Lastly, does the employee want to do the work? Employees need to know how this new task fits into their existing workload. They want to understand how the task benefits them and the organization.
If by chance, you ask yourself these questions and the answer is “no,” that’s not the end of the matter. While you might choose not to delegate the task, as the manager, you need to ask yourself “Why?” and “What do I need to do in order to delegate this task?” Not being able to delegate something isn’t as much a reflection on the employee as it is on the manager and their ability to develop their people.
Image taken by Sharlyn Lauby after some awesome meatballs at Fork & Balls in South Florida0