Delegation: The art of leveraging time and performance

One of the biggest grumblings I hear from anybody in a leadership position is  “I just don’t have the time” and I get it!

As a person moves up the proverbial ladder of empowerment they become saddled with more responsibilities, attend more meetings, deal with more issues and generally end each day with a to do list which is longer than when started the day. This becomes a repetitive spin cycle sucking you into a black hole of no hope

Fear not for this need not be the case and this need not be your life. All that is required is that you take a leap of faith and start delegating

Here are the fundamentals

  • What is delegation?

The Oxford dictionary defines delegation as: The art of entrusting (a task or responsibility) to another person, typically one who is less senior than oneself

  • Why is delegation important and how is it beneficial?

Motivation and morale – The average person not only accepts, but also seeks out responsibility. By delegating individuals then feel a greater sense of satisfaction and, subsequently, more commitment to the organization.

Growth and expansion = Motivation plus speedier learning curve

Increased autonomy – The more responsibility is delegated the less people rely on you to make decisions and the more confidence they have in themselves to make decision

Agility of business – The more responsible, confident and capable the organisation, the more agile it becomes

Now you may be reading this and thinking to yourself “That’s all good and well. But I’ve given this delegation lark a try and all it did was put me in hot water and give me more to do because I had to pick up the pieces!”

Unfortunately my friends that is more than likely down to you having made one or more of the following mistakes when you ‘tried’ to delegate.

  1. Delegating a task or responsibility to someone who does not have the ability to achieve the desired outcomes. A common mistake that will most definitely land you in hot water.
  2. Delegating a task or responsibility to someone who does not want responsibility for the task.  Another common mistake, we have all the desire to develop and empower people, some people just don’t want it themselves.
  3. Not setting clear expectations and outcomes from both parties. Things can only go wrong when expectations (from both sides) have not been clarified
  4. Over managing or under managing the person once delegation has occurred. Critical error, the first part is often due to lack of confidence in the individual being delegated to (see point 1, 2, 3) as major contributors to this, The latter being hugely attributed to point 5 below
  5. Abdicating accountability. This is an interesting one because we often talk about delegating responsibility so what is the difference between responsibility and accountability?

Although most definitions do show these as being similar it is important to differentiate the two. and can be explained in the following way – Accountability is overall ownership for the result. Example – As a manager you are accountable to your stakeholders for the achievement of team target. What this means is that although you can delegate responsibility of tasks to individuals in your team you cannot put the blame on the individuals if your target is not hit. I.e. the buck stops with you

Abdicating accountability is the sin of giving the buck to someone else

Now that we know why and how not to, lets take a look at how to leverage time and performance through delegation

  •  Stage 1: Preparation

If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Two key things to do at this stage

1. Identify and priorities your tasks. A great tool for this is the Urgent/Important Matrix  which I understand originates from the Eisenhower Decision Principle by General Dwight D. Eisenhower leadership lessons that can be gleaned from the life of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”

Ask yourself: Who can do this instead of me? Who can do this better than me? Who can do this at a lower cost than me? Does this really need to be done i.e. can it be eliminated?

2. Identify and understand your team Their goals, capabilities and interests

Armed with this valuable insight you are now ready to move  onto

  • Stage 2: 6 steps to effective delegation
  • Match the person to the task
  • Agree on what needs to be done (SMART objectives)
  • Agree on how the job is going to be done (this ensures clarity that you are on the same wave length. For experienced people coach, less experienced tell
  • Agree deadlines and touch points
  • Agree support
  • Manage by exception: This is a term I picked up from BrianTracey

If the job is on track, and on schedule, the person does not have to report back to you. If you don’t hear from them, you can assume that everything is going well. The individual only reports back to you when an exception occurs and there is a problem with getting the job done on time, to the agreed upon level of quality.

And presto follow the guidelines – they are well tested and remember

If something is not going the way you expected, start with the question

“What did I do, not do which caused this?”

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