Effective delegation frequently comes up as an issue in coaching and mentoring conversations with governance professionals
What is delegation?
Wikipedia says “Delegation is the assignment of any responsibility or authority to another person (normally from a manager to a subordinate) to carry out specific activities. It is one of the core concepts of management leadership. However, the person who delegated the work remains accountable for the outcome of the delegated work.”
When you first reach the position of having one or more people working for you this is a key skill which you will need to master.
Here are some pointers I hope will help:-
- select the right things to delegate. You should be doing the higher skilled tasks and delegating the lower skilled ones;
- set end goals for your team, but unless it really matters, try not to dictate the minute detail about how they achieve the end result. In other words delegate the objective not the procedure. Explain the context of a task, clearly state the deadline and the output you expect, then allow your team member to execute the task the way he or she feels best. In short, don’t micro manage;
- ensure that your team have the resources needed to complete the tasks successfully, including adequate training/clear instructions;
- when you delegate see it as a team development opportunity and help your team member to see how the task will give them more responsibility and help them grow;
- if you have more than one team member, work out each persons strengths, likes and dislikes and if possible delegate accordingly so people are doing things they enjoy and will do well;
- accept that the first time (or even first few times) you delegate a new task, it would almost certainly be quicker to do it yourself. As your team learn they will become quicker and your investment in time will pay off;
- during the course of a task make sure you schedule time to check in with your team member to check how they are getting on and that they are on the right track to delivering what you have requested, on time and to quality. This could simply be an email a day before a task is due checking that they are expecting to meet the deadline and haven’t hit any issues they need help with. Some members of your team will need more support than others so be sensitive to this. Ensure that you are approachable so that team members feel comfortable coming to speak to you if they get stuck. If you are intimidating they might not, preferring instead to keep trying or guess which might not produce the result you were looking for;
- give quality feedback during the task and upon delivery. Ensure that it is constructive and positive. If the end result wasn’t what you wanted, explain that constructively;
- when you first delegate a new task plan for mistakes – ask for the work earlier than you need it to give you time to review and provide feedback so they can amend it and learn. When they are used to the task you can allow less time for this. You can also have in place back up plans at first and be prepared to jump in and help out if necessary to meet a deadline. Do this in the spirit of team work and being part of the learning experience and your team member will feel supported, trusted and encouraged. If you throw them under the bus they will react badly and probably spend more hours in the future covering their own back than completing the task;
- remember to say thank you and give credit where it is due;
- ask for feedback on your delegation style – are you giving enough information and choosing the right people to do the tasks for example.
A great easy read book to read about successful delegation is The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey by Ken Blanchard, William Oncken Jr and Hal Burrows.
However, it is not just the mechanics of delegation that governance professionals can struggle with. Sometimes they find it hard to let work go when they are promoted and end up trying to do their old job and their new job. Next week I will talk about this other important part of delegation – being able to let go.