How to Delegate - Effective Delegation

How to Delegate
Delegation does not necessarily come naturally. It is easy to find excuses not to delegate. 'It's quicker to do it myself.' 'I can do it better.' 'I don't have the time to show them.' 'I like the job.' And so on. The fact is delegation is a business decision.

Managers are too expensive to stand next to photocopiers.
Just suppose it is quicker to do it yourself. Let's say it takes you 20 minutes to do the daily photocopying and it would take somebody else 30 minutes.

At your respective hourly rates it is still more cost effective for them to do it, thus freeing you up for higher value work.

Similarly, not having the time is short-term thinking. Suppose it will take you an hour to show them how to do the photocopying (See 'How' below), whereas doing the photocopying only takes you 20 minutes.

The temptation is to carry on doing it yourself, yet the best decision is to make the investment of one hour. By the end of the first week you will already be in credit in terms of your time saved.

There are four steps to effective delegation. First, you must identify something that has the potential to be delegated (What?). Next, you need to identify a suitable person to delegate the task to (Who?). Then, you should brief that person properly and if necessary train and coach them in that task (How?). The final step is to monitor that which you have delegated (Manage).

What to Delegate

Firstly, identify something that has the potential to be delegated. To do this you need to create and complete a time log. Divide the day up into 15 minute slots and then record how you spend each of those 15 minutes. (Of course, some activities will last longer, but record them accordingly.) One of the indirect benefits of this is to see how you actually do spend your time at work, as opposed to how you think you spend your time!

Having completed your log, maybe for a week, you should now analyse that record. Look for the lowest level task on the log. This is the one where you are merely operating on a functional level. Remember, management is about "achieving results through other people". This will be the task you are going to delegate first.

Who to Delegate

Now it is time to find someone suitable to delegate the selected task to. There are two options. First, look at the existing skills and workloads of your staff. There may be somebody who, relative to the others, is under-occupied. If so, start here. Alternatively, there may be someone who has a skill that could easily be transferred or developed into the new task.

A further option is to look for the most talented of your team. Talent thrives on being given new challenges. In fact, if you don't stretch them they are likely to leave you for a rival competitor out of boredom.

Having identified the most appropriate individual, the process of delegation now begins.

How to Delegate

In some instances it may simply be a case of briefing the chosen team member. Be clear about exactly what you want them to do and express this in simple terms. Give them not only the task, but also some parameters or guidelines as to how to do it effectively and use questions to check their understanding. (See Effective Communication.)

On other occasions it may be necessary to engage them in some form of training or coaching. (See Training, Coaching, and Mentoring) The most important thing here is to remember that although it is second nature to you, it is new to them. Break the task down into its component parts (Mirror, signal, manoeuvre when first learning to drive is an example), rather than show them all in one go. Also be patient and go at the pace of the learner. Do not worry if you have to show them more than once.

Manage the Delegated Task

All that remains now is to monitor the delegated task. This is a gradual process whereby the task is, in effect, handed over. It is best explained by way of example.

Let us say that you have delegated the writing of the weekly management report. You have already sat down with the team member and gone through the content, explained the house style, and showed them some examples of previous reports (the 'How' above).

You would then proofread the first few reports. If all was okay you should then move on to maybe proofreading 50% of the reports. Once satisfied, proofread by random sampling until finally, there would be no need to check at all. At this point the task has been fully delegated.

Do not simply show them once and then leave them to it. Whilst you have delegated the task, you, as the manager, are still ultimately responsible for the end product.

Summary of How to Delegate

To summarise, delegation is a business decision. It is a process, not a single action. It is also a constant theme in management.

Once you have successfully completed the process, look for the next thing to delegate, and start all over again.

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