In my consulting work I encounter many different types of management styles and I have found the most successful leaders are those that empower their employees to do their best work every day. This requires you to motivate your employees to think creatively, allow them the freedom to work unfettered by too many rules, and to trust that everyone has noble intent to do a good job. As a business owner, you must be willing to delegate, and relinquish control, a scary proposition at times I admit, but a management strategy that will reward you and your team.
In addition to creating a more engaged and motivated team one of the hidden benefits of delegation is that it will create leverage and capacity for you and the senior management team. So if there are so many advantages why don’t more leaders master the art of delegation? Quite simply, people don’t delegate because it takes a lot of up-front time and effort and they are not confident in the results. Done correctly delegation allows you to make the best use of your time and skills, develops your staff, grooms a successor, and motivates.
Poor delegation will cause you frustration, demotivates and confuses the other person, and fails to achieve the task or purpose itself.
Delegation can be a win-win proposition if done correctly, however that doesn’t mean you can delegate just anything. To determine when delegation is most appropriate ask yourself these key questions:
- Is it essential or critical that you do it yourself? Or is this a task or responsibility that someone else can handle?
- Does someone else on your team have more experience or the skill to do the task better than you?
- Does the task provide an opportunity to grow and develop another person’s skills?
- Do you have enough time to delegate the job effectively? Time must be available for adequate training, for questions and answers, for opportunities to check progress, and for rework if that is necessary.
Once you have determined an appropriate task or responsibility to delegate you need to follow a process to ensure success. Begin by selecting the right individual for the role and responsibility. Delegate to the lowest possible level in the organization. Remember the people who are closest to the work are best suited for the task, because they have the most intimate knowledge of the detail of everyday work. This also increases workplace efficiency, and helps to develop your people. Note, when you first start to delegate to someone, you may notice that he or she takes longer than you do to complete tasks. This is because you are an expert in the field and the person to whom you have delegated is still learning. Be patient: if you have chosen the right person to delegate to, and you are delegating correctly, you will find that he or she quickly becomes competent and reliable.
Next define the assignment, requirements, parameters, the authority level needed, provide checkpoints and realistic expectations. Clearly articulate the desired outcome you are looking to accomplish. Where are the lines of authority, responsibility and accountability, and make sure to agree on a schedule for getting the work completed. Explain why the employee is given this task and where it fits in the overall scheme of things in your firm. Assess the resources that are needed to accomplish the task/responsibility and if training is required for completion.
Ensure success through ongoing communication and feedback.
Be available to provide guidance and answer questions but hold the person accountable to making progress. Concern yourself with what is accomplished, rather than how the work should be done: Your way is not necessarily the only or even the best way! Allow the person to control his or her own methods and processes. This facilitates success, trust and engagement. Employees thrive when they feel they are not only entrusted with, but also held accountable for, the projects they complete. Don’t forget to ask a lot of questions. One of the most powerful tools in delegating successfully is to ask questions rather than give instructions. If you say you trust your employees but then tell them how you want them to do every little thing, the message is clear that you don’t really trust them after all.
Lastly make sure you recognize and reward results. Providing timely feedback on results is essential. The employee assigned the project should be recognized and applauded for their successes. By the same token, failures must also be analyzed so that the reason(s) can be turned into opportunities for future learning. Provide recognition where deserved. As a leader, you should get in the practice of complimenting members of your team every time you are impressed by what they have done. This effort on your part will go a long way toward building team member’s self-confidence and efficiency, both of which will be improved on the next delegated task.
In the words of Ronald Regan, “Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.”
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