Before I share some practical tips, I think we ought to agree on what we mean by delegation, the importance of this topic and the common barriers that hold us back from delegating.
What is delegation?
Delegation is giving someone the authority to do part of your job, or to act on your behalf, whilst you ultimately retain the responsibility for the successful completion of the assignment.
Why delegating is important
As you become established in an organisation you are likely to be given additional responsibilities, for example working on a project, business development or joining a committee. You will also find that you will need more time building relationships with clients, the management team and with members of other teams.
The key to finding and maintaining a work-life balance is to develop the art of delegation early in your career. Do not wait until you have the word ‘manager’ or ‘leader’ in your job title.
When a new person joins your team as a junior member or as one of your peers, delegate some of your tasks to reduce your workload and accelerate their professional development.
Barriers to delegating
Common barriers are usually connected with your main internal motivation or driver:
‘I love doing the work myself – completing a job myself and to a high standard is what gets me out of bed on a workday. I’m a perfectionist. Other people won’t do the job in the way I like it done.’
‘I might lose my status in the organisation if this person does the job well and becomes the main client contact. I enjoy being out and about and noticed by senior management and key external influencers.’
‘The thing that drives me most is my great relationships within my team. I hold back from delegating because I do not want to upset anyone.’
Do you recognise yourself in any of the above scenarios? My expectation is that the following paragraphs on the benefits of delegating and top tips will encourage you to let go and delegate more freely.
During this period of recession and greater home working, there are two other barriers against delegating:
To avoid being made redundant you may decide to look after your own interests by e.g. holding onto chargeable work to maximise your own financial performance
It may be more difficult to assess your colleagues’ workloads if they are working from home
The benefits of delegating well
Delegating for you, the delegator, enables you to:
Reduce your workload
Improve your work-life balance
Re-prioritise your time
Keep staff motivated, stretched, happy
Take on new and / or more challenging work
Demonstrate your leadership skills
Increase your network / influence with staff
Still ‘be seen’ to be in charge
Share out successes
Build a successful team
Relax more on holiday
Have more time to e.g. think strategically
Build your coaching / mentoring skills
Delegating for you, the ‘delegatee’ enables you to:
Experience new types of work and / or new clients
Enjoy more challenge and variety
Get to know your manager
Demonstrate your readiness for promotion
Meet new people
Work at new locations
Make a favourable impression
Feel you are making a greater contribution and can be trusted
See work through a wider lens
Enhance your professionalism
Learn to take greater personal responsibility
Work more autonomously
Learn to juggle your time more effectively
Work with other technical disciplines
Over time your organisation, clients, customers, and stakeholders notice:
Higher staff retention
More talented staff
Easier succession planning
Greater personal links with clients’ staff
Stronger client relationships
Distributed leadership, collaborative working and a coaching culture
Accelerated staff development
Reduction in the composite charge out rate to clients
Reduction in bottle necks, overload, burn out among senior staff
Senior staff spending more time on strategic thinking, business development and specialist services
Top tips – planning what to delegate
This section is about planning your time effectively and giving your chosen delegatees maximum notice. I recommend planning your work one week in advance, preferably on a Friday, and recording work coming up in weeks two onwards. Use this simplified form
This coming week
Work only I can do
Examples: Deadline is too close; confidentiality is involved; too late to introduce a new person to the client
Work I should delegate
Examples: Gather costs to date and draft sales invoice; copy a report; stand in for me at an internal meeting
Weeks two onwards
Work only I can do
Examples: Staff reports; building internal and external relationships; own professional development
Work I should delegate
Examples: Assist with planning, budgeting, business development, implementing systems; arranging a social function
Top tips – Meet the delegatee
Hold a proper two-way conversation with your chosen delegatee. Explain why they have been chosen. Reach a win-win outcome by helping your colleague appreciate their WII-FM ‘what’s in for me’. Use the following structure to check you cover all the main points:
Agree a well-formed outcome
Provide context. Explain why this task is important and how it will contribute to the whole
Create a shared picture of what the finished task will look like
Develop a well-formed outcome, i.e. agree how you will both know that the task has been achieved successfully
Agree the budgeted time, deadline and cash budget
Recognise that the delegatee may carry out the work in their own way
Explain that the overall responsibility remains with you
Unless the person is new to the organisation, avoid telling them how to do the task
Point out actual / potential elephant traps
Specify the boundaries of your delegated authority
Discuss what prior permission, if any, may be needed from the client and / or other parts of your organisation and agree who is going to get this permission
Give the delegatee the names of other people who can assist e.g. the team member who has previously carried out the task
Any special IT or other systems needed to carry out the task
Agree time(s), date(s) and method(s) by which the delegatee will inform you of progress. In all cases, put the onus on them to keep you informed of progress. This will help ensure you do not start to micro-manage the delegatee
Ensure that the delegatee understands the standard of performance expected and the date(s) when the work will be reviewed
Ask the delegatee to summarise what they need to do and by when.
With so many advantages, it’s surprising that delegation is often poorly attempted. Hopefully, this article will give you the confidence to enhance your delegation skills. Remember, practicing these skills will help you to make the best use of your time and allow you to focus on tasks that will enhance your position in the organisation.
It will also strengthen relationships. As your organisation emerges from this recession it is more likely to retain better staff if they are being fully occupied and given valuable personal and professional opportunities to develop.
About the author
Richard Fox is founder of The Learning Corporation LLP – a pan-European firm of leadership and career coaches, business mentors and facilitators. He is the author of the award winning ‘Making Relationships Work at Work – a toolkit for getting more work done with less stress’.
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