Don’t Hesitate to Delegate

When I begin working with a new client, I examine their most recent employee reviews and I speak with either coworkers (if they are high level executives) or supervisors if they are middle managers. During this review and subsequent follow up, I seek out areas of strength to further develop, and I seek areas for improvement. We can then work together towards stated goals.

During this initial review, I find I consistently run into one area in particular where people struggle. This area is delegation.  It seems simple enough; any of us who have children especially would think it should come naturally. We commonly delegate household chores, grocery store stops, and snow shoveling. But, when it comes to a project at work, delegation suddenly seems like more trouble than its worth.

Afraid to Delegate

There are a various reasons for this, one is fear. Fear that if you give up control of any portion of the project you will lose control of all of it. Fear that if the other person doesn’t do the job at the level you expect it will reflect poorly on you. And finally, fear that if the other person does a superior job  you may be overshadowed.

Another reason people hesitate to delegate is guilt. You feel as if you are dumping undesirable tasks on other workers. You may feel as if you look incompetent because you need to delegate certain tasks to others. Many of us were taught that we should never ask someone else to do something we wouldn’t do ourselves. With all of these nuances involved in delegation, it is no wonder that it continues to surface as an area where people struggle.

In order to overcome the fear of delegation there are some things a person needs to understand. To begin with, delegation is a necessary part of staff development. The people you are delegating to need opportunities to stretch their skills and they need the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities. Delegation allows you to mentor and train your subordinates in a way that will ultimately help them progress.

Delegation is a Critical Step

Delegation is also a critical step in project management. If you are a business owner, or a middle manager, there is absolutely no way that you can accomplish all necessary tasks on time, on budget, and in a manner that exceeds expectations without delegation.

The first step to effective delegation is to understand the players and the goal.  First, who are the players? Think about the client, the department head, whomever you are working for; they are one of the players. Next, who is on your team? The individuals from whom you can choose to delegate tasks are also players.

Levels of Delegation

It is important that you know the “delegation level” of the person you give a task to. Think of it as a check list. Is this person capable of doing this task? How often do I need this person to check in with me? Some people can complete tasks and check in periodically, while others will need constant monitoring before they proceed with various steps. It will be your responsibility to understand the level of skill and experience that the person has. It is a sign of good leadership when you delegate to someone and push them slightly above their comfort level, while providing the direction they need along the way.

Donn’t Always Use Top Performers

Another trap to avoid is punishing your best performers. When you have a difficult task to perform, one that might take extra work, extra hours and extra attention, you naturally want to delegate it to the top performers. This is a problem on two levels; one, if you do this consistently your top performers become over worked and burned out and feel unappreciated while your poor performers are rewarded with easy projects. Secondly, your poor performers are never given an opportunity to improve. So, you end up completing a project but not helping your staff.

If you remember to delegate to the right person, explain all the pieces of the project to that person (not just the ones pertaining to their task) and you follow up appropriately, delegation can be a powerful tool. Successful leadership demands successful delegation. Stop hesitating and start delegating.