Getting employees more productive is often associated with delegation. So let’s take a journey into ‘delegation land’. As managers, we often outline what the person needs to do, tell them to do it, and naively call it delegation.
The Complex Challenges of the Delegation Process
The art of delegation is one of the most difficult and complex tasks a manager can perform. It is the most critical managerial task for the organization and yet it eludes most managers. Why? Because it is a multi-step process, that requires assessment, execution on the part of two people, accountability and the genuine investment of time. But, the most common manager response to delegating is, ‘I can do it faster myself’. Haven’t we all said that? So in reality, under the delegation banner, we have true delegation, over delegation, under delegation, micro delegation and dumping. Let’s focus on the last category – dumping!
There is an important distinction between true delegation and the others. The problem arises when the manager assumes that by just telling the employee to do something, delegation has occurred and, the employee is fully accountable. This could not be further from the truth. In reality, dumping has taken place.
Here are 4 critical challenges the manager must initiate to avoid dumping and develop the management skill of delegating.
Challenge #1 - Assess the personality type of the employee involved in the delegation.
Employees have many different personality types and each one will have a motivation trigger that a manager must understand in order to delegate properly. One approach DOES NOT fit all. Some people are overly confident beyond their ability, while others may have the knowledge, but lack confidence. To be successful, each employee personality type must be considered by the manager, because delegation to each individual will require a different approach.
Challenge #2 - Determine the complete scope of the entire task to be delegated. Break the task down into realistic, manageable parts. Often, we delegate (dump) the whole task at one time. If this is a new task, (and it generally is) the effect can be overwhelming. The employee can take too long to do the task, and/or makes too many mistakes. Employee confidence can be at risk relying too much on other staff, or taking too much of the manager’s time. If the employee does not immediately excel at the newly delegated task, the manager will often be disappointed, which compromises manager confidence. Further delegation is stopped. In reality, the manager has not delegated properly. But the employee pays the price – lack of manager confidence. This justifies, in the manager’s mind, why they cannot delegate. So you see where this is going!
Challenge #3 - Manager, you must continually work with your employee throughout the process of learning a new task. Managers play a key role in the delegation process. You MUST decide if you are willing to efficiently invest the time necessary to make the delegation process a success. In Challenge #2, the manager must break the task down. Then, in Challenge #3, the manager must hold both himself and the employee to a timely delegation process with timelines and expected outcomes. This may seem obvious! However, true delegation is a manager’s time investment in the employee. Sadly, many managers feel that the time it takes to teach someone a new task could be better spent doing the job themselves. And here is where the delegation process breaks down. Invest time in your employees now to learn the task, or you will pay the price later when you, the manager, are doing too much of your employees’ work. It’s your choice.
Challenge #4 - Manager and employee are both accountable. Managers must be accountable to the employee to help them learn the new task and make them delegation ready. Employees must be willing to accept the responsibility of delegation – to perform the task at 100%.
Without this mutual accountability, delegation becomes dumping, and the magic bullet called delegation will never hit the target.
If you're looking to see how to inspire change at your organization to help solve the delegation challenge, we invite you to download our change management case study.