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The Art of Delegation

Aug 17, 2007
Lets begin by understanding a little more about delegation. Hopefully this short piece will allow you to assess your own approach and review its effectiveness or otherwise.

Definition - Delegation is where part of your own job consciously passed to a subordinate whilst retaining accountability.

As management is really about getting things done through people, successful delegation is vital aspect of a manager's job. The more senior you are the more you really delegate and the more effective you become. You're doing more strategic work as you progress upwards within your organization and doing less transactional work.

Delegation is something one needs to make a conscious decision about. Looking at your own time and how successful can you be doing everything yourself? Perhaps delegating makes sense to clear your desk of things that you don't have to be doing yourself.

Select a subordinate who is not only capable of doing the tasks but will be able to use the experience to grow their own career. This is a win-win experience. Of course you may not have the luxury of selecting your own subordinate and have to take what you get.

Then of course strike a balance between delegating too little or too much.

What to delegate and to whom

Divide work into meaningful tasks and then allocate them to specialists or people who will benefit from the experience.

Allocate the work

This is the hardest and most important stage of delegation and generally involves a number of issues:

The subordinate must understand why the work needs to be done.
Where the applicable the manger should set specific performance standards for output, time, cost and quality, and involve the subordinate in the process. Furthermore sub goals and monitoring and reporting procedures should be agreed upon;
The manager should delegate responsibility, the subordinate must be allowed to make decisions to achieve agreed results.
The subordinate must be given authority or control over certain resources and people.
While the manager can delegate tasks and assign responsibility and authority for their. accomplishment, he will always be held accountable for the tasks his subordinates perform.

Monitoring performance

A manager should constantly monitor progress against standards and sub-goals. Recognition must be given for task accomplishment and preventative or corrective action instituted when targets are not being achieved. It's the monitoring of performance which keeps you in control and aware of the results of the work you delegate.

If tasks are delegated as part of a developmental program the manager should ensure that the subordinate receives proper training and guidance!

Benefits of successful delegation

Providing subordinates with the opportunity for growth and development

Motivating subordinates by giving them the opportunity to make decisions.
Allowing the manager more time for relevant managerial activities such as planning and controlling.
Facilitation communication and understanding between a manager and his subordinates.
Reducing the time taken to make decisions.
Allowing the decision making to take place close to the point of action where the detail is known.

Obstacles to successful delegation

There are a number of possible reasons which hold managers back from delegating. The reasons are;

The fear that subordinates will do a better job and get the recognition.
Fear that the subordinate won't be able to do the job properly.
The fear of losing control over activities and tasks for which he is accountable.
A feeling that it is important for him to be seen doing the work rather than purely managing.
Preference for doing the work itself as opposed to managing people.
A manager might have the technical skill to perform the task but not the managerial skill to see that someone else does it. In the long run delegation is an essential skill to learn. Never be scared to delegate your ability to delegate will assist you in growing your career more than being an absolute expert in some minor part of your job. As a manager you'll be able to monitor the performance and still stay on top of the work you've delegated. You will reap the rewards.

Good luck in your delegation!
About the Author
Graeme Nichol Arcturus Advisors (http://www.arcturusadvisors.com)works with business leaders and their teams to close the gap between great strategies and mediocre results. (Newsletter arcturusadvisor@aweber.com)
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