Enhancing Productivity through Delegation.

Enhancing Productivity through Delegation.


Delegation involves the manager giving someone the responsibility and authority to do something that is normally part of the manager’s job. Delegation is not a task assignment. Task assignment is simply assigning work to an individual within the duties and responsibilities of his/her position. Delegation is not abdication. The manager still has the ultimate accountability for the assignment. That is why it is important to establish appropriate controls and checkpoints to monitor progress.

Delegation involves three important concepts and practices: responsibility, authority, and accountability:

Responsibility: Refers to the assignment itself and the intended results. That means setting clear expectations. It also means you should avoid prescribing how the assignment should be completed.

Authority: Refers to the appropriate power given to the individual or group including the right to act and make decisions.

Accountability: Refers to the fact that the individual must “answer” for his/her (or their) actions and decisions along with the rewards or penalties that accompany those actions or decisions.

When you delegate, you share responsibility and authority with others and you hold them accountable for their performance. The ultimate accountability, however, still lies with the manager.

Why is delegation necessary?

There are several reasons to delegate:

  • Delegation allows you to devote energy to more important tasks. You probably have a range of tasks and duties, some of which are more important or engaging than others.
  • Delegation gives employees the necessary opportunities to grow in skill and experience. This is important for the company’s long-term success.
  • The ability to delegate is important for your own advancement. As you move up in the organization, the managers above you watch to see not only whether you get the job done, but also how you get it done. They want to see what management skills you have, especially your ability to act strategically, with a focus on future planning and innovation.

Why do managers have a hard time delegating?

It would be imagined that one good thing about being the boss who has loads of work and staff that report to him or her would be the chance to hand off some of the work to other people. Yet overworked managers frequently need to be reminded that they could be delegating some of their tasks. If you find yourself overworked, and still doing most of the work yourself, it may be for one of the following reasons:

  • A perfectionist – who knows your employees are competent, but you feel certain that you can do it even better.
  • A feeling that the staff needs to be protected because the employees do not know how to do certain things, or at least not do them well enough.
  • It takes too much time to explain and follow up and the manager feels that it is easier to do the work himself so that he can get it right the first time. But this creates a scenario that is almost sure to fail eventually. Employees become more and more dependent, and less able to act on their own.

What to delegate

Review what tasks you are doing and how long you spend at them. When a task is scattered throughout the day or week or month, you may seriously underestimate how much time you spend at it.

Here are some examples of good tasks to delegate:

  • Delegate tasks you do over and over. You have probably mastered them, but employees could learn new skills by doing them.
  • Delegate a less-than-essential task that requires skills you do not currently have. Although learning a new skill may be fun and interesting, it can take a lot of extra time. Why not let one of your employees become the expert in that task?
  • Delegate tasks that do not have immediate deadlines. These provide good opportunities for employees to learn without too much pressure. Your employees may learn critical project management skills.
  • Delegate a task to an employee who has shown a particular interest in it. Start teaching the employee how it’s done by delegating some or all of it.
  • Delegate a task to an employee who needs to work on a skill in that area. This could be anything from awkwardness at running meetings to failure to meet deadlines, to the inability to negotiate effectively with suppliers.

What not to delegate

Not everything is appropriate for delegation. Do not delegate a task that is so unpleasant, demeaning, or risky that you would not want to do it yourself. Similarly, do not assign tasks to employees where there is a significant mismatch between the project requirements and the employee’s capabilities. Also do not delegate anything your manager has asked you to handle yourself without first checking with your manager.

Finally, do not delegate anything that can be eliminated. All too often, work continues to be done because it has always been done. If you set aside time to review your department’s work, you will probably find opportunities to streamline processes and procedures so that you can focus more energy on initiatives most critical to organizational success.

How to delegate

Here are suggestions on how to delegate:

  • Give a clear description of the task. This includes:
  • what you want to be done (requirements)
  • when you want it done (deadline)
  • assignment parameters (scope of authority)
  • why you want it done (purpose and how it fits into overall goals or objectives)
  • available tools and resources
  • possible challenges or obstacles to consider

Specify what you expect the employee to learn. You might say, “I’m turning this over to you so that you can learn more about plant management. I want you to pay attention to how the policies we set are actually playing out in the plant and what obstacles they run up against.” By gradually increasing the amount of work you delegate, you can help employees gain confidence and proficiency while easing their own transition away from these tasks.

  • Provide the appropriate resources. Delegation without proper tools, resources, information, or authority to act will almost certainly fail. If available, provide a sample of what the completed project should look like. Also, make sure your employee knows who she can go to for help if you are not available for questions or problem-solving.
  • Remember that you are delegating responsibilities, not methods. While it’s fine to talk about techniques you have found helpful, keep in mind that not every person will do the same job the same way. Your employee may even find a way to do the job that you have overlooked.
  • Be clear about performance expectations and behaviors. Coaching is helpful, especially if the employee is taking on new tasks or a new role.
  • Express confidence in your employee’s abilities.

Always follow up

To delegate is to trade one kind of work for another. You still have to manage, coach, and appraise. Once you have handed off the job with appropriate clarity, resources, and authority, these tasks remain:

  • Meet regularly, as arranged. Answer questions, give feedback and continue to coach your employee so she keeps learning. Ask for a report on progress and a candid evaluation of how the project is going.
  • Seek feedback from your employee. As part of reviewing a completed assignment, ask your employee for feedback on anything that would improve the delegating process. You can get great ideas about ways to maximize your effectiveness from your employees.

A healthy amount of delegation helps you build your group into a strong team, with a shared sense of mission and responsibility. Individuals see that you are investing your time and effort in their growth and their future in the company.

Delegate tasks to fill gaps in your employees’ present capabilities. For each employee, analyze the gap between his present capabilities and the positions to which he might like to advance. Delegation can provide excellent opportunities for workers to develop their careers. When you delegate some responsibilities, you will be able to focus your energy on other tasks.

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