Many of us are uncomfortable in delegating because we are concerned about the outcome. Would the select individual be able to do a good job? Could the process to do the proper delegation take just as much effort, if not more, to do the actual work? What if the result is irreversible? I must admit those questions hover in my head every time.
Delegating work not only relieves you to focus on work that truly requires your attention, it is a great way to develop employees with great potential. It pays to delegate when you pay attention to 3 things. They are the choice of work you plan to delegate, the person you select, and how you manage it.
Choice of Work
The nature of the work determines the criteria for your selection of the candidate. There are generally 2 types of work under consideration:
- Straight-forward tasks—these tasks require little knowledge transfer. There might be a standard methodology that when one follows all the steps, there is little chance of errors. Well defined work such as accounting, creating a work order, or generating a report would fall into this group.
- Work that requires judgement—this work calls on one’s experience and knowledge to make decisions. The work tends to be more complex. There is some risk with the outcome if the decisions made are not sound. Review of other’s work, or negotiation, for example, would fall into this group.
Who to delegate the work to
Selecting the right candidate to take on the work could be tricky because you could be pushing new boundaries. There are 3 things you look for:
- Technical capabilities—Knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to do a good job are relatively easy to identify. If there is any gap, training usually takes care of the need. The technical know-how might not need to be a perfect match but it helps.
- Aptitude—for the person whom you intend to delegate the work to, the work might be ‘new’ in terms of responsibility and expertise. If so, it would require that person to have the aptitude to learn and trial new things. The individual needs to be comfortable to stretch beyond his comfort zone and make decisions, likely in absence of all information that he feels he needs.
- People skills—as most people don’t have answers to everything, you need to be flexible and seek solutions through others. Being able to work with others and forego one’s ego and seek help are important. Strong people skills provide the key to a vault of knowledge and solutions.
How to manage the delegation
Selecting the right individual to take on the work is important, but you need to do the following in order to make the experience positive for you and the chosen individual:
- Set clear expectations—it is only fair for the person to know what the expected outcomes are. In absence of a standard methodology for the work, it is important to define the boundaries so that the individual is aware of the impacts of his work and be prepared to take calculated risks, if the work calls for it.
- Provide guidance—coaching provides a sounding board, particularly for work that requires judgement calls. Sink and swim would not work, especially if you are aiming to develop the individual to take the leap to greater responsibilities.
Most of the time, delegation fails because the above 3 things don’t line up. The select candidate is poorly ‘equipped’ to take on the work due to an oversight on what the work calls for, or he is left alone to ‘explore’ without guidance. It pays to delegate when you are cognizant of these critical success factors. The gains certainly justify the effort when it is done properly.