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Blog : Delegation in leadership


Delegation in leadership

By Jessica Edmondson

A common error leaders make is to believe that they can somehow do it all themselves. Even those who have worked in, and understand, every step of a business process are still making the mistake of trying to take it all upon themselves.

Control can be difficult to relinquish. Yet, to achieve the best results, the smartest leaders have had to learn how to delegate to others – and to trust them to complete those tasks as they were taught to do. 

Why should you delegate?

It’s never easy to give up control, however, large business operations or projects that have many “moving parts” must have a variety of people overseeing and completing the various tasks. One person attempting to manage it all would simply become overwhelmed and quickly lose control.

Smart leaders match the right person with the right job, helping them focus on the tasks that have a larger impact on the business. It’s important, however, that a leader doesn’t get bogged down thinking:

·         I can’t delegate because I can do it better myself.

·         I can’t delegate because I don’t trust my people to get it right.

·         I can’t delegate because I don’t have time to explain the task.

These thoughts prevent effective delegation and result in what the leader should not be doing, i.e. everything on his or her own.

Does the project need to be done?

Another question a good leader asks – and which, in some cases, is not asked enough – is whether a task has to be completed at all. Many companies do things the same way because they have always been done that way, or because someone has taken on the task and doesn’t wish to give it up.

Finding and eliminating such tasks can improve efficiencies within a business and lead to a better bottom-line as employee time is turned from performing the unnecessary to those which ensure the company reaches its goals.

Who should you delegate to?

One of the main responsibilities of a good leader – and an excellent leadership skill to possess – is finding and cultivating employees who are trustworthy, talented and tenacious about completing assignments correctly.

It’s also important to understand the skills of your people, what they do well and what they don’t do so well. Matching the right person to the right task is an important step in successful delegation. Ask yourself, “Who on my team can do this job best? Who can do it better than me?”

These determinations are necessary before you can move on to actually delegating job responsibilities.

The Importance of good communication

Unclear communication is another impediment to proper delegation. Poor communication leaves the employee confused and stakeholders annoyed when tasks are not completed on time or in the way expected. This occurs when a leader sits down with an employee, explains the task, but does so in such a way that the employee leaves the conversation with little understanding of what he or she is supposed to do.

The responsibility of getting this right falls to the delegator.  Clear thinking and the ability to articulate are keys to successful delegation. A good leader, before even talking with the employee, knows what to communicate to the employee and how to do so in a way that explains exactly what is expected. A good leader also decides, in advance, how to thank, and possibly reward, the employee for the successful completion of the delegated task.

It’s also helpful to set deadlines and give a complete task to accomplish rather than a small part of the whole. The former gives the employee a date for accomplishing the goal, and the latter provides a larger stake in the overall project.

Managing by exception

Managing by exception can be an extremely effective tool if you have the right employee doing the right job. However, it requires relinquishing complete control.

To manage by exception is to ask that the employee only reports back when the project is finished (by an agreed upon deadline) or if an issue arises that will prevent completion or to the quality that is expected.

For those who pick the right people and trust them to complete a project on time, this is a very effective management tool which frees you to concentrate on your own tasks once you have set the employee’s project in motion.

If this method is not possible, the manager should list core dates when they’d like progress reports, such as when certain milestones are hit.

All of the above steps can lead to successful delegation. However none of this will work without an engaged leader who sees beyond his or her own abilities, knows the abilities of their employees and then allocates resources effectively.

This sort of common sense thinking will result in strategies that improve business results – and in the proper and successful delegation of duties.

This guest post was provided by Jessica Edmondson who writes about strategic leadership skills and executive decision making for the University Alliance, a division of Bisk Education, Inc.





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