Successful Delegation Requires a Process

Career success and job success is a function of your skills and abilities. If you are – or ever will be – in a supervisory job… in charge of a project…or chairing a committee… delegation skills are critical to success. Someday getting the job offer you want might hinge upon your ability to answer successfully  the interview question “Tell me about how you delegate – how do you go about it?”! Interview preparation is job search tip #1!

Delegation is universally understood to be necessary to the success of any organizational unit. For delegation to be successful,  however, it must be structured –  a process must be determined and then followed.

To delegate successfully follow these guidelines from MindTools:

1. Articulate clearly the desired outcome. Specify the results that will make the effort a success. Include any “stakeholders” in the discussions leading to the definition of success for the effort. Provide initial timelines and deadlines.

2. Identify the degree of authority and accountability of each person involved.

3. Define who and when are the people involved to:

a. Develop a plan and ask for approval?…or

b. Develop a plan and proceed to implement, reporting status/results on what frequency?

4. Be sure authority and responsibility are in sync; if someone has the authority to act in a particular aspect of the project – he or she is also responsible for the results.

5. Delegate as far down in the organization as possible; the people closest to the action are in the best position to know what will work and what won’t.

6. Make answering procedural questions and clarifying issues a priority of all. You don’t want the process to come to a halt because someone can’t get an answer to a procedural question.

7. Don’t permit “upward delegation” to take place; where someone shifts responsibility upward or to you. When someone comes to see you with a problem  – picture the issue  as a monkey on his/her back. Don’t let that monkey jump on your desk, and then you are left with the monkey (the problem or issue)! Don’t answer such questions – ask questions instead as to possible approaches/solutions until they arrive at one you would agree with….then just nod approval!

8. Focus on results – not procedure, so long as procedures don’t exceed pre-determined parameters (cost, not a violation of any law, etc.). How you would do it is not necessarily the best way – if the right people are in the mix, the “how” should not be an issue.

9. Every now and then – there will be a glitch. That is, “the cow will get in the ditch”. This can be a great learning exercise – instruct whomever of the three-step process:

a. Get the cow out of the ditch.

b. Find out how the cow got into the ditch

c. Develop and implement procedures so it can’t happen again!

10. Have periodic meetings to discuss progress, stressing the objectives and what the desired results will have in terms of payoff for the organization and the team members. Review timelines and deadlines. Be sure to give recognition when earned. Document progress and distribute to all involved.

Successful delegation can only be achieved by understanding that it is a process that needs to be put into place and then followed religiously.

For further reading on the subject – go to http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_98.htm

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Delegation Trains Everyone

The inability to delegate is one of the most common failings of managers. Management and leadership are all about getting results by organizing and supervising a workforce. Poor delegation or no delegation is inefficient and expensive. And the worst thing about not delegating is that managers are losing wonderful training opportunities for their delegationworkers.

Managers have many reasons for not delegating:

  • They feel at ease doing routine tasks rather than supervising the work of others.
  • They aren’t familiar with the skills of their workers and therefore unsure of other people’s ability to take more responsibility.
  • They hate correcting other people’s work.
  • They know they can do some things better than other people can.

Delegating is hard work, but it’s work that is needed to help an organization grow and improve. You can tell people what to do, you can show people what to do, but by far the best way to teach people is to simply let them do the work themselves. Delegation provides that training venue.

There are basically two good reasons to delegate:

  • It gets the work done more efficiently…and
  • It provides training and new experiences for members of work teams.

Renowned management consultant Andrew E. Schwartz says, “Too many managers waste both time and energy performing tasks an employee could perform just as well, thereby lowering productivity while raising operating costs. The answer to the problem is easy – delegation. However, many managers still limit their own effectiveness, time and energies, and fail to develop their subordinates by either ignoring or mismanaging the techniques of delegation.”

The ability to delegate tasks and control productivity simultaneously is an essential skill for managers. There are many pitfalls that can undermine efforts to delegate, but there are also some basic steps to help managers ease their workload through delegation while maintaining control.

There are five functions of an effective delegation and controls system:

  1. Planning and Goal Setting – If everyone is involved in the planning and goal setting of a project, it is more likely that everyone will buy into the work involved to bring the project to fruition – which makes delegation easier.
  2. Responsibility and Authority – Before delegating, everyone needs to know which way the responsibility flows. Who reports to whom? That question must answered for effective delegation. James G. Patterson, a business writer and faculty member of the University of Phoenix, advises, “Be prepared to supervise. All projects require regular monitoring – especially in the early stages. So do all employees. But some projects require more scrutiny than others, and some employees demand more direction. Here, too, it’s a matter of matching the task with the person.”
  3. Negotiation – “Can you do this?” If not – training is needed. Give and take is part of the delegation process.
  4. Consultation and Coaching – Think of consultation as the bedside manner of a physician taking the pulse of a family member. The manager needs to know how the patient is doing, and must make suggestions to improve the overall health of the project and that person’s performance.
  5. Review and Control – This is kind of like consultation and coaching, but from one step back. Reviewing project aspects and controlling the work and schedule insures continued progress towards worthwhile goals. In reviewing the project the results should be addressed; and the methods that were involved should be addressed only if they were inefficient or ineffective (or illegal!!).

Delegation can result in some mistakes being made, but mistakes can also be learning opportunities. The manager’s job is to monitor the work and progress so that any mistakes are caught and corrected before they become fatal to the project. Praise should be given for jobs well done. Each time delegation happens there is a chance that everyone will improve his or her performance and standing in the organization.

For more information about delegating – see “Successful Delegation – Using the Power of Other People’s Help”

http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_98.htm

And of course Wikipedia’s take on the subject:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delegation

 

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