How busy are you? I know what a stupid question! – I mean in my case there’s that report to finish, I’ve yet to start on the meeting papers and that presentation which I am supposed to do next week – well heaven knows when I’ll be able to get round to that!

The answer is of course to delegate some of the work – but you know I find it’s simpler and quicker just to do it myself. And we all know how true the saying is “If you want it done right do it yourself”. And the fact is, my fellow workers are great people, but they don’t do things the way I want them done. No – I may be busy, but I’d hate to think what would happen if I didn’t keep my fingers on the pulse.

Does any of that sad and sorry story resonate with you? It probably does, because one of the hardest things to do is to hand over to someone else a job you know you can do perfectly well yourself – and in less time. It’s not easy to delegate, but in management positions our leadership abilities are often judged on how we direct and delegate to our staff. The most difficult lesson a leader has to learn is that no-one is indispensable; but refusing to delegate indicates that we believe that in our case that may not be true!!

Remember when you were making your way up your career ladder, how you longed for that idiot manager just to let you get a chance to show what you could do. Your staff could be feeling just the same about you. Just think if you learn to delegate properly can cut your time and effort in half – and reduce your stress levels at the same time. Now that just has to be a good thing.

Delegation needs just five simple steps to ensure that your requirements are met, and these are really communication skills:

Step 1 – State the Guidelines clearly and explicitly. This lays out the ground rules; it sets out who does what in the chain of command and what rules, policies, by-laws or guidelines must be followed. It also details what the person is authorised to do without consultation. This is basic stuff.

Step 2 – Define the task in detail. Set out the responsibilities and detail precisely; what the task entails, what the person is expected to do.

Step 3 – Goals must be outlined. The person you delegate to needs to know what the levels of achievement are; what the time line is; and what the performance objectives are. Again simple stuff but easily overlooked.

Step 4 – Communication must be maintained. Delegation of authority does not mean dereliction of duty – as we used to say in the army! You need to maintain the lines of communication between you and the staff member. This is a fine line to maintain between maintaining communication and breathing down someone’s neck. They need to know that you are there to be consulted if necessary and still have an interest in what is happening, without you being judgemental or critical. Nobody will do a task the way that you do it, so don’t expect it; be prepared to be surprised at how innovative and creative your staff can be!

Step 5 – Controls must be established. Yes, you can delegate the task and the authority to perform, but you still maintain overall responsibility. If you perform Step 4 correctly you will find that your controls are already in place. Maintaining a gentle control will allow you to know what is being done, and in some cases just when to step in and take action. This last one is tricky; because if you are scared of handing over authority the wish to take it back starts almost immediately!

When we delegate authority to another, we need to learn self-restraint. We need to be able to refrain from telling our staff how to do the job – by all means tell them what needs doing but never how to do it. We need to avoid criticising others merely because they are not doing it the way we would have done it. It is so difficult, I sometimes give up and just do it myself. Which of course defeats the object!

Ralph Cordiner has said “the work of the manager requires conscious selection of the tasks reserved to himself. Then it requires deliberate delegation of everything else…”

The art of delegation is indeed a delicate task, but the rewards are great. We can have time to concentrate our whole minds on those tasks reserved to ourselves and we will have developed a sense of achievement and self-confidence in our staff. I find that I am constantly amazed at the creative abilities of the people I work with.

Would you like to learn more about the art of delegation? Trischel has a number of short one or two hour presentations on leadership which may be just what you need at your next planning meeting. Contact us for more information.


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