Delegation, the Key to Growth


By Odette Pollar,

"If you want something done right--do it yourself." "It will take me more time to explain it to someone else, than if I do it myself." "It's faster and easier for me to do it so I'll take care of it."

Sound familiar? Perfectionism is a common trap: feeling as though you are the only person who can work with a special client, handle a ticklish situation or do the marketingreports. On a surface level, these are all true statements. In any single instance, it is faster to handle it yourself. To assign it requires that you clearly define the task, train the person and commit to being available to answer questions. However, the more you delegate the more time you gain in the future. Lack of delegation will trap you in the role of ‘doing’ versus 'managing.' Allowing others to participate in completing the work is an excellent way to provide a growth and learning opportunity. It makes their job more interesting, challenging and fun.

Defining Delegation

Delegation is not:
- passing the buck
- giving up control
- refusing to make a decision by assigning it to another
- shirking personal responsibility
- dumping unpleasant tasks onto someone else.

Delegating a job is not the same as assigning a task. When you assign a task you are focusing on the process and on the details of how it is done. You are not giving the person any authority to make decisions. When delegating you are concerned with the final outcome and allowing the employee to make the decisions associated with solving the problem.

By giving employees control over the process (undoubtedly they will proceed differently than the way you might have approached it) as long as the final product fits the guidelines, the project will be acceptable.

How can you tell whether you delegate often enough? Here are five questions you can ask yourself:

  1. When you come back from a trip or a vacation, is the “In” basket too full?
  2. When you are away from the office is your trip shadowed by worry? Do you wonder what is going wrong in your absence?
  3. Are you still handling the same activities and problems that you did before your last promotion?
  4. Are you constantly interrupted with questions and requests for guidance from your staff?
  5. Are you continually finding it harder to stay on top of your work because you are involved in too much routine detail?

How To Delegate

Effective delegation requires:
(a) That you state a clear objective.
(b) Determine guidelines for the project.
(c) Set any limitations or constraints.
(d) Grant the person the authority to carry out the assignment.
(e) Set the deadline for its completion.
(f) Decide the best means for the person to provide you with regular progress reports.

When assigning the project be sure that the person fully understands your requirements. Encourage questions and be prepared to make yourself available to answer any questions as they arise.

The employee must have the responsibility and accountability for completing the assignment. (The ultimate responsibility remains with you, of course.) Grant, in very clear terms, the authority to make necessary decisions and to take action to complete the assignment. This is particularly important if your employee is working with others and will need to gather information, resources or materials.

The regular progress reports will allow you to monitor the situation and to make corrections if necessary.

The final component and for many the most difficult aspect of delegation is personal self-restraint. Step back, and do not hover. Allow the employee freedom.

Delegation is a powerful management tool. Every task or project successfully completed builds a greater level of confidence and allows your staff to handle more and more responsibility. Ultimately, effective delegation frees managers and owners to focus on building volume, keeping customers satisfied and doing the creative tasks that move an organization forward.

Odette Pollar is a nationally known speaker, author, and consultant. President of the management consulting firm, Smart Ways to Work based in Oakland, CA, her most recent book is Surviving Information Overload. Email to share your comments, questions and suggestions: Visit us at: call: 1-800-599-8463.


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