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The Art of Delegating

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Managers always seem to face longer "to do" lists and shorter deadlines. With too much work for one person to complete, delegating is often the only way to get the job done.

The benefits of delegating tasks go beyond lightening the workload. Delegation means giving your staff the discretion to make decisions for which you ultimately are responsible. Delegation communicates that you trust your subordinates and respect their ability to make independent decisions.

Delegation also promotes engagement and professional growth. Employees who feel that they are trusted and respected tend to have a higher level of commitment to their organization than those whose every move is micromanaged.

Delegation Does Not Come Easily

Skillful delegation takes practice and resisting the urge to do it yourself. To become skilled with the process, you need to ask yourself some hard questions. After delegating, do you:

  • Tell your employees how to handle the details of their work?
  • Feel the irresistible urge to reclaim the task if an employee runs into a snag?
  • Constantly offer advice out of fear that the results will not turn out as you envisioned?
  • Constantly ask "how it's going"?
  • Rarely, if ever, ask what employees think would be a better approach?

Obstacles to Delegation

Despite your best intentions, you may be reluctant to hand over your responsibilities to a colleague or employee. If the fear of losing control gives you pause, consider the following common fallacies:

  • "I could do it better myself."
  • "I don't have the time to show him/her how it's done."
  • "They already have enough to do."
  • "I am the only one who can do this properly."
  • "I have no one to whom I can delegate tasks."

Process for Successful Delegation

Delegating is a skill requiring follow-up at the right times, and in the right amounts. Here is a simple 5-step delegation model to help you get the desired results:

  1. Identify the right person for the task: Who has the right skills? Who can you groom?
  2. Discuss your expectations, including:
    • Why you chose them
    • What entails a successful outcome
    • Non-negotiable areas, such as budget, time, new equipment, or people/resources
    • Performance standards/expectations
    • Milestones and dates for scheduled progress reports
  3. Explain that you will provide support, as needed, in task implementation.
  4. Follow up with support and coaching:
    • Be sure to check in if milestones/dates are missed.
    • Acknowledge a job well done as appropriate.

Improving your delegation skills will increase your productivity and the satisfaction of your colleagues. Look to your FOH EAP for help and support in developing or enhancing these and other professional skills.