How Well Do You Delegate?

A “yes” to any of the following questions suggests a need to examine your delegation skills:

Yes  No 1. Do I try to improve upon everything my employees do?
Yes  No 2. Do I become upset when one of my employees is promoted?
Yes  No 3. Do I ever fear that one of my staff members is unable to do a particular job satisfactorily?
Yes  No 4. Do I frequently neglect to involve those I supervise in decisions that directly affect them?
Yes  No 5. Do I often ask an employee for advice and then ignore that advice without providing any explanation?
Yes  No 6. Do I frequently give directions that are unclear and/or incomplete?
Yes  No 7. Do I repeatedly and unnecessarily monitor the work of my employees?
Yes  No 8. Do I usually provide my employees with the responsibility—but not the necessary authority—to get the job done?
Yes  No 9. Do I place an unusually high value on the “power” aspects of my position?
Yes  No 10. Do I frequently do a job myself because I can do it quicker, better and cheaper?
Total Number of "Yes":

How did you do? Is there some room for improvement? Many of the problems that arise between a manager and staff members are due to poor delegation and communication practices. If delegation is a problem for you, here is some advice that will help:

Step #1: Decide What Can Be Delegated

The first step of delegation is to decide which tasks you should delegate. Jobs that only you have the authority or resources to perform should not be assigned to others.

As you identify tasks for delegation, consider not only which duties can be done by others but also which delegated jobs would bring you the most benefit if you no longer had to do them. An exceptionally time-consuming task, for example, would have a high delegation priority, since you would gain valuable time by assigning it to an employee.

Step #2: Determine Who Should Do What

The natural tendency to delegate everything to your best staff member is not always a wise course of action. Save your top performers for the more difficult tasks, and assign easier tasks to your less skilled, less experienced workers. You should choose to delegate tasks to those persons knowledgeable enough to get the job done and who also have the time to take on some additional work without neglecting their regular duties.

Step #3: Prepare the Job for Delegation

If the job you have decided to delegate has a substantial backlog, you may want to bring it up to date before making the actual assignment. Doing this will show your staff member that you consider the job important and that your intent is not to saddle the person with work that is already behind schedule but rather to provide the individual with the opportunity to develop his or her range of competence and abilities.

Step #4: Prepare the Employee for Delegation

One or two meetings to discuss the assignment will not only help the employee do the work well but also create a positive attitude toward the duties to be assigned. During these sessions, you should express confidence in the employee's ability. Describe the job to be delegated as a challenge and greater responsibility rather than as a burden. Explain the importance of the job, how it relates to other work being done in the department and in the company and how its successful completion will affect others.

In addition to these early meetings, make time to thoroughly coach the employee in the task. This may require you to do the job along with the staff member until you are confident that he or she understands what needs to be done. Let the person know that you are always available if assistance is needed.

Step #5: Maintain Overall Control

No matter who does the work in your department, the responsibility for its being done correctly and in a timely manner rests with you. To fulfill your responsibility, therefore, you must establish reasonable checkpoints or controls that enable you to determine that the job is being done within the guidelines that you have specified. The proper time and place for these controls will vary with the task and the person to whom you have delegated it. Adjust these controls over time, as needed.

To learn more, consider these AMA seminars:

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