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The Art of Delegation
Read the text and be ready to answer the questions.
The Art of Delegation
1. Read and remember the following words and word-combinations:
|1. to dump – выбрасывать, сваливать 2. subordinate – подчиненный, низший по чину, второстепенный 3. authority –власть, полномочие, авторитет, достоверный источник 4. discretion – осмотрительность, благоразумие, усмотрение, полномочия 5. relevant – относящийся к делу, уместный 6. rapid access – быстрый доступ 7. flow of information – поток информации 8. staggered development – дифференцированное развитие||9. outcome – результат, исход, последствие 10. to delegate – делегировать, передавать полномочие, поручать работу 11. to relinquish – оставлять, сдавать 12. remainder – остаток, остальные (pl.) 13. negotiation – обсуждение, переговоры 14. praise – похвала 15. reprimand – выговор, замечание 16. promotion – продвижение, повышение, поощрение, поддержка, содействие|
2. Match the columns:
|1. dynamic tool||a. цель делегирования|
|2. the nature of the task||b. работать успешно|
|3. to operate successfully||c. природа задачи|
|4. daunting task||d. отправная точка|
|5. to lose control||e. осуществимая процедура|
|6. appropriate monitoring||f. формирование команды|
|7. starting point||g. терять контроль|
|8. criteria of success||h. устрашающая задача|
|9. workable procedure||i. соответствующий контроль|
|10. team – building||j. отчет о работе|
|11. performance review||k. критерии успеха|
|12. the objective of delegation||l. динамический инструмент|
3. Form derivatives according to the models:
|Potential – Successful – Rapid – True – Gradual –||Severe – Actual – General – Primary – Personal –||Delegate – Promote – Innovate – Communicate – Construct –||Inform – Situate – Instruct – Distribute – Motivate –|
4. In each column find the word with the more general meaning:
Delegation is a skill of which we have all heard – but which few understand. It can be used either as an excuse for dumping failure onto the shoulders of subordinates, or as a dynamic tool for motivating and training your team to realize their full potential.
The objective of delegation is to get the job done by yourself. Not just the simple tasks of reading instructions and turning a lever, but also the decision making and changes which depend upon new information.
Such a system can only operate successfully if the decision-makers (your staff) have full and rapid access to the relevant information. This means that you must establish a system to enable the flow of information. This must at least include regular exchanges between your staff so that each is aware of what the others are doing.
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One of the main phobias about delegation is that by giving others authority, a manager loses control. This need not be the case. If you train your staff to apply the same criteria as you would yourself (by example and full explanations) then they will be exercising your control on you behalf. In engineering terms: if maintaining control is truly your concern, then you should distribute the control mechanisms to enable parallel and autonomous processing.
To understand delegation, you really have to think about people. Delegation cannot be viewed as an abstract technique, it doesn’t depends upon individuals and individual needs.
The key is to delegate gradually. If you present someone with a task which is daunting, one with which he/she does not feel able to cope, then the task will not be done and your staff will be severely demotivated. Instead you should build-up gradually; first a small task leading to a little development, then another small task which builds upon the first; when that is achieved, add another stage; and so on. This is the difference between asking people to scale a sheer wall, and providing them with a staircase. Each task delegated should have enough complexity to stretch that member of staff – but only a little.
When you delegate a job, it does not have to be done as well as you could do it (given time), but only as well as necessary: never judge the outcome by what you expect you would do (it is difficult to be objective about that), but rather by fitness for purpose. When you delegate a task, agree then upon the criteria and standards by which the outcome will be judged.
You must enable failure. With appropriate monitoring, you should be able to catch mistakes before they are catastrophic; if not, then the failure is yours.
There is always the question of what to delegate and what to do yourself, and you must take a long term view on this: you want to delegate as much as possible to develop you staff to be as good as you are now.
The starting point is to consider the activities you used to do before you were promoted. Tasks in which you have experience are the easiest for you to explain to others and so to train them to take over.
Tasks in which your staff have more experience must be delegated to them. This does not mean that you relinquish responsibility because they are expert, but it does mean that the default decision should be theirs.
Decisions are a normal managerial function: these too should be delegated – especially if they are important to the staff. In practice, you will need to establish the boundaries of these decisions so that you can live with the outcome, but this will only take you a little time while the delegation of the remainder of the task will save you much more.
Since delegation is about handing over authority, you cannot dictate what is delegated nor how that delegation is to be managed. To control the delegation, you need to establish at the beginning the task itself, the reporting schedule, the sources of information, your availability, and the criteria of success. These you must negotiate with your staff: only by obtaining both their input and their agreement can you hope to arrive at a workable procedure.
There are managerial functions which you should never delegate – these are the personal/personnel ones which are often the most obvious additions to your responsibilities as you assume a managerial role. Specifically, they include: motivation, training, team-building, organization, praising, reprimanding, performance reviews, promotion.
As a manager, you have a responsibility to represent and to develop the effectiveness of your group within the company; these are tasks you can expand to fill your available time – delegation is a mechanism for creating that opportunity.
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How to Delegate Tasks Effectively (and Why It’s Important)
One of my favorite Olympic sports to watch is track relay. The runners make blindly reaching for a baton at 20 mph while staying in their lanes look incredibly easy. But in truth, what they’re doing is extremely difficult. And it’s a lot like delegating effectively.
Delegating sounds easy—and others who can do it well make it look easy—but passing the baton effectively requires a lot of trust, communication, and coordination. Still, if you learn how to delegate—and you do it well—everyone on your team wins.
Table of Contents:
Why Is It Important to Delegate?
As a leader, delegating is important because you can’t—and shouldn’t—do everything yourself. Delegating empowers your team, builds trust, and assists with professional development. And for leaders, it helps you learn how to identify who is best suited to tackle tasks or projects.
Of course, delegating tasks can lighten your workload, but according to Dr. Scott Williams, professor of management at Wright State University, delegating does much more than just get stuff off your plate.
For one, the people who work for you will be able to develop new skills and gain knowledge, which prepares them for more responsibility in the future.
“Delegation can also be a clear sign that you respect your subordinates’ abilities and that you trust their discretion,” Williams writes. “Employees who feel that they are trusted and respected tend to have a higher level of commitment to their work, their organization, and, especially, their managers.”
Why Managers Fail to Delegate
While the benefits of delegating are obvious and plentiful, many managers still fail to delegate effectively. The reality is that there are several myths and misconceptions about delegating that can make some leaders wary of handing off work to others.
They think delegating is just passing off work to someone else
“Managers often mistake delegation for passing off work,” writes Harvey Mackay, founder of MackayMitchell Envelope Co. “So they don’t do it, and they wind up wasting their time as well as the company’s time and resources.”
Delegation can be a chance to make workloads more manageable, but more than that, it can provide really valuable teaching opportunities for your employees, Mackay notes.
Delegation is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of a strong leader.
They think they can do it better
One study found that two psychological processes make people more reluctant to delegate work:
- the self-enhancement effect, which is a manager’s tendency to evaluate a work product more highly the more involved he/she is in its production
- the faith in supervision effect, which is when people have a tendency to think work performed under the control of a supervisor is better than work performed without as much supervision
Watch for those biases in your work. They could be a sign that you need to focus on building more trust within your team.
They’re nervous about letting go
Letting go can be challenging, but accepting that you can’t do everything yourself is important.
“Giving up being ‘the go-to expert’ takes tremendous confidence and perspective even in the healthiest environments,” says Carol Walker, president of Prepared to Lead—a consulting firm that focuses on developing young leaders.
Remind yourself that your team wants to do good work and be successful just like you do. If your employees succeed, you succeed.
“I’ve learned that people will seldom let you down if they understand that your destiny is in their hands—and vice versa,” says Mackay.
They’re worried delegating will take longer than just doing the work
Another common barrier to delegation is that it can take longer to teach someone else how to do a task than to just do it yourself.
And while that might be true the first time you delegate the task, over time, the amount of time you have to dedicate to that task decreases because you won’t have to be involved with it at all.
Imagine that it will take you eight hours to walk someone through a task you have to complete every week. Typically, it takes you an hour to complete the task.
Once eight weeks have passed after you’ve trained someone else to do the task for you, you’ll have recouped the time you spent on training and now have an extra hour each week.
With that extra hour, you can focus on more important work, such as strategy, coaching, or development—the things leaders are supposed to do.
How to Determine When Delegating is Appropriate
Another common barrier to delegation is that leaders aren’t sure which tasks they should and shouldn’t be delegating. In every manager’s workload—particularly new managers—there are likely tasks that you should do and tasks that you should delegate.
Career and business strategist Jenny Blake recommends conducting an audit of your tasks using the rules below to find out which of your tasks should be delegated:
- Tiny: Tiny tasks are little things that only take a small amount of time to complete but add up over time. These might be things an assistant could do: scheduling meetings, booking flights for business trips, or deleting spam/marketing emails from your inbox.
- Tedious: Tedious tasks are mindless tasks, such as copying and pasting lead information from your marketing automation tool to your CRM. Tedious tasks require little skill and can be easily delegated.
- Time-consuming: Time-consuming tasks are opportunities to break work into smaller chunks and delegate portions of the work to others. If you perform a task regularly that takes a lot of time, look for opportunities to hand off segments of that task to others.
- Teachable: Do you have tasks on your plate that you could easily teach someone else to complete? If a task is entirely teachable—if it does not require expertise that only you can provide—it’s a worthwhile candidate for delegation.
- Terrible at: Maybe you have no design skills, so it takes you six times as long to create graphics for your blog posts as it would a professional designer. It’s better to delegate that task to someone who’s more equipped to do the work quickly and well.
- Time-sensitive: Maybe it would be better if you handled all of the tasks belonging to a time-sensitive project, but if you won’t have time to complete it doing it all on your own, it’s time to find ways to delegate parts of that task to other members of your team.
Additionally, you may need to consider delegating tasks you love doing but are no longer part of your job.
If you recently moved into a leadership role, you may have pet projects from your days as an individual contributor, but if it’s now someone else’s job to complete those tasks, it’s time to delegate and teach that person how to do it for you.
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How to Delegate
Start by specifying the outcome you desire to the people you trust to deliver it. Establish controls, identify limits to the work and provide sufficient support, but resist upward delegation. Keep up to date with progress, and focus on results rather than procedures. Finally, when the work is completed, give recognition where it’s deserved.
Even “Super You” needs help and support. There is no shame in asking for assistance. Push aside the pride and show respect for the talent others can bring to the table.
And, remember that there is no such thing as a single-handed success: when you include and acknowledge all those in your corner, you propel yourself, your teammates and your supporters to greater heights.
Do you feel stressed and overloaded? Or that your career seems stalled? If so, then you may need to brush up your delegation skills!
If you work on your own, there’s only a limited amount that you can do, however hard you work. You can only work so many hours in a day. There are only so many tasks you can complete in these hours. There are only so many people you can help by doing these tasks. And, because the number of people you can help is limited, your success is limited.
However, if you’re good at your job, people will want much more than this from you. This can lead to a real sense of pressure and work overload: you can’t do everything that everyone wants, and this can leave you stressed, unhappy, and feeling that you’re letting people down.
On the positive side, however, you’re being given a tremendous opportunity if you can find a way around this limitation. If you can realize this opportunity, you can be genuinely successful!
One of the most common ways of overcoming this limitation is to learn how to delegate your work to other people. If you do this well, you can quickly build a strong and successful team of people, well able to meet the demands that others place. This is why delegation is such an important skill, and is one that you absolutely have to learn!
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Why People Don’t Delegate
To figure out how to delegate properly, it’s important to understand why people avoid it. Quite simply, people don’t delegate because it takes a lot of up-front effort.
After all, which is easier: designing and writing content for a brochure that promotes a new service you helped spearhead, or having other members of your team do it? You know the content inside and out. You can spew benefit statements in your sleep. It would be relatively straightforward for you to sit down and write it. It would even be fun! The question is, “Would it be a good use of your time?”
While on the surface it’s easier to do it yourself than explain the strategy behind the brochure to someone else, there are two key reasons that mean that it’s probably better to delegate the task to someone else:
- First, if you have the ability to spearhead a new campaign, the chances are that your skills are better used further developing the strategy, and perhaps coming up with other new ideas. By doing the work yourself, you’re failing to make the best use of your time.
- Second, by meaningfully involving other people in the project, you develop those people’s skills and abilities. This means that next time a similar project comes along, you can delegate the task with a high degree of confidence that it will be done well, with much less involvement from you.
Delegation allows you to make the best use of your time and skills, and it helps other people in the team grow and develop to reach their full potential in the organization.
When to Delegate
Delegation is a win-win when done appropriately, however, that does not mean that you can delegate just anything. To determine when delegation is most appropriate there are five key questions you need to ask yourself:
- Is there someone else who has (or can be given) the necessary information or expertise to complete the task? Essentially is this a task that someone else can do, or is it critical that you do it yourself?
- Does the task provide an opportunity to grow and develop another person’s skills?
- Is this a task that will recur, in a similar form, in the future?
- Do you have enough time to delegate the job effectively? Time must be available for adequate training, for questions and answers, for opportunities to check progress, and for rework if that is necessary.
- Is this a task that I should delegate? Tasks critical for long-term success (for example, recruiting the right people for your team) genuinely do need your attention.
If you can answer “yes” to at least some of the above questions, then it could well be worth delegating this job.
Other factors that contribute to the delegability of a task include:
- The project’s timelines/deadlines.
- How much time is there available to do the job?
- Is there time to redo the job if it’s not done properly the first time?
- What are the consequences of not completing the job on time?
- Your expectations or goals for the project or task(s), including:
- How important is it that the results are of the highest possible quality?
- Is an “adequate” result good enough?
- Would a failure be crucial?
- How much would failure impact other things?
That being said, having all these conditions present is no guarantee that the delegated task will be completed successfully either. You also need to consider to whom you will delegate the task and how you will do it.
The Who and How of Delegating
Having decided to delegate a task there are some other factors to consider as well. As you think these through you can use our free Delegation Log worksheet to keep record of the tasks you choose to delegate and who you want to delegate them to.
To Whom Should You Delegate?
The factors to consider here include:
- The experience, knowledge and skills of the individual as they apply to the delegated task.
- What knowledge, skills and attitude does the person already have?
- Do you have time and resources to provide any training needed?
- The individual’s preferred work style.
- How independent is the person?
- What does he or she want from his or her job?
- What are his or her long-term goals and interests, and how do these align with the work proposed?
- The current workload of this person.
- Does the person have time to take on more work?
- Will you delegating this task require reshuffling of other responsibilities and workloads?
When you first start to delegate to someone, you may notice that he or she takes longer than you do to complete tasks. This is because you are an expert in the field and the person you have delegated to is still learning. Be patient: if you have chosen the right person to delegate to, and you are delegating correctly, you will find that he or she quickly becomes competent and reliable.
How Should You Delegate?
Use the following principles to delegate successfully:
- Clearly articulate the desired outcome. Begin with the end in mind and specify the desired results.
- Clearly identify constraints and boundaries. Where are the lines of authority, responsibility and accountability? Should the person:
- Wait to be told what to do?
- Ask what to do?
- Recommend what should be done, and then act?
- Act, and then report results immediately?
- Initiate action, and then report periodically?
- Where possible, include people in the delegation process. Empower them to decide what tasks are to be delegated to them and when.
- Match the amount of responsibility with the amount of authority. Understand that you can delegate some responsibility, however you can’t delegate away ultimate accountability. The buck stops with you!
- Delegate to the lowest possible organizational level. The people who are closest to the work are best suited for the task, because they have the most intimate knowledge of the detail of everyday work. This also increases workplace efficiency, and helps to develop people.
- Provide adequate support, and be available to answer questions. Ensure the project’s success through ongoing communication and monitoring as well as provision of resources and credit.
- Focus on results. Concern yourself with what is accomplished, rather than detailing how the work should be done: Your way is not necessarily the only or even the best way! Allow the person to control his or her own methods and processes. This facilitates success and trust.
- Avoid “upward delegation.” If there is a problem, don’t allow the person to shift responsibility for the task back to you: ask for recommended solutions; and don’t simply provide an answer.
- Build motivation and commitment. Discuss how success will impact financial rewards, future opportunities, informal recognition, and other desirable consequences. Provide recognition where deserved.
- Establish and maintain control.
- Discuss timelines and deadlines.
- Agree on a schedule of checkpoints at which you’ll review project progress.
- Make adjustments as necessary.
- Take time to review all submitted work.
In thoroughly considering these key points prior to and during the delegation process you will find that you delegate more successfully.
Now, once you have worked through the above steps, make sure you brief your team member appropriately. Take time to explain why they were chosen for the job, what’s expected from them during the project, the goals you have for the project, all timelines and deadlines and the resources on which they can draw. And agree a schedule for checking-in with progress updates.
Lastly, make sure that the team member knows that you want to know if any problems occur, and that you are available for any questions or guidance needed as the work progresses.
We all know that as managers, we shouldn’t micromanage. However, this doesn’t mean we must abdicate control altogether: In delegating effectively, we have to find the sometimes-difficult balance between giving enough space for people to use their abilities to best effect, while still monitoring and supporting closely enough to ensure that the job is done correctly and effectively.
The Importance of Full Acceptance
When delegated work is delivered back to you, set aside enough time to review it thoroughly. If possible, only accept good quality, fully-complete work. If you accept work you are not satisfied with, your team member does not learn to do the job properly. Worse than this, you accept a whole new tranche of work that you will probably need to complete yourself. Not only does this overload you, it means that you don’t have the time to do your own job properly.
Of course, when good work is returned to you, make sure to both recognize and reward the effort. As a leader, you should get in the practice of complimenting members of your team every time you are impressed by what they have done. This effort on your part will go a long way toward building team member’s self-confidence and efficiency, both of which will be improved on the next delegated task; hence, you both win.
At first sight, delegation can feel like more hassle than it’s worth, however by delegating effectively, you can hugely expand the amount of work that you can deliver.
When you arrange the workload so that you are working on the tasks that have the highest priority for you, and other people are working on meaningful and challenging assignments, you have a recipe for success.
To delegate effectively, choose the right tasks to delegate, identify the right people to delegate to, and delegate in the right way. There’s a lot to this, but you’ll achieve so much more once you’re delegating effectively!
Check how effectively you’re delegating now with our “How Well Do You Delegate?” quiz.
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Important Delegation Skills for Workplace Success
Examples of Effective Delegation Skills
Being able to delegate is important for every supervisor or manager. Managers needs to be able to trust employees with responsibilities, while still ensuring that work is done well.
In a work setting, delegation typically means the transfer of responsibility for a task from a manager to a subordinate. The decision to delegate is usually made by the manager. However, sometimes an employee will volunteer to take on an expanded role.
Delegation can also happen when there is a less formal chain of authority. For example, a member of a peer group who has been designated as a leader of a team might delegate tasks to peers in the group.
What Are Delegation Skills?
Most of the time, good managers know how to accomplish each task required by the team. Better managers know that they shouldn’t try to complete every task for two reasons.
First, they know that it is very likely that each team member could do most of those tasks as well or better. And second, great managers understand that they shouldn’t overwhelm their own schedule by micromanaging.
Leaders that know how to manage will always delegate. They learn how to manage their own worries about whether or not their team members are dependable.
They know how to instruct their team members in a way that makes members feel empowered to accomplish the tasks required of them.
Delegation does not necessarily imply a transfer of complete responsibility. For instance, a manager may ask a subordinate to hire an administrative assistant, but the manager will still review the actions the subordinate takes to accomplish the task and provide guidance.
Types of Delegation Skills
Managers need to be able to communicate clearly with their employees when delegating. They have to explain why an employee has been assigned a task, what the task is, and what the expectations are. All of this requires clear, effective oral and written communication skills.
Listening is also an important communication skill to use when delegating. You need to listen to any questions or concerns of your employee, and make sure he or she understands your expectations.
- Properly Explaining Task Guidelines
- Defining Expectations
- Active Listening
- Oral Communication
- Written Communication
- Quickly Correcting Miscommunication
While delegating means giving an assignment to someone else, this does not mean you are not responsible. You have to check in with the employee, particularly at the end of the task, to make sure the goals are met. Provide clear feedback on what they did well, what they struggled with, and why. This will help the employee perform tasks even better the next time.
- Performance Evaluation
- Negative Reinforcement
- Positive Reinforcement
Even though someone else is doing the task, you still need to be effective at managing time. You need to give clear deadlines and checkpoints to the employee and hold that employee accountable. This also requires that you plan out whom to delegate to well in advance. All of this requires organization and time management.
- Time Budgeting
- Creating Milestones
- Knowing When to Jump in and Assist
- Quality Assurance
Often when delegating, you will have to make sure your employee or peer has the skills and abilities necessary to perform the task. This might require some training before delegating. A good manager knows how to effectively train his or her employees in a new task or skill.
Some tasks require a manager’s insight and expertise.
Before delegating, managers need to assess tasks to determine if it makes sense to pass them along to a subordinate.
Another delegation task that managers take on is identifying outside resources — whether it’s technology or other companies — that can help with day-to-day tasks.
- Identifying High Value Activities
- Assessing the Strengths and Weaknesses of Employees
- Creating Incentives
- Talent Management
- Creating Job Descriptions
- Researching Available Training Tools
Often, managers do not delegate because they don’t trust their employees to do as good of a job as they would. A good manager trusts the skills of his or her employees. She lays out clear expectations, and provides feedback, but she does not micromanage while the employee works on the task. Trust is key to effective delegating.
- Facilitating Group Discussion
- Agreeing on Roles that Capitalize on Individual Strengths
- Building Consensus
- Eliciting Viewpoints from Reluctant Team Members
- Not Easily Offended
- Able to Detach from Their Own Strong Emotions
- Identify Systematic Problems
More Delegation Skills
- Human Resources
- Sensitivity to Ethnic and Religious Backgrounds
- Productivity Software
- Analyzing Problems Without Assigning Blame
- Defining Mutually Acceptable Roles
- Documenting Team Progress
- Analytical Skills
- Emotional Stability
- Recognizing and Rewarding Group Achievements
- Critical Thinking
- Problem Solving
- Problem Sensitivity
- Conflict Resolution
- Emotional Intelligence
- Team building
How to Make Your Skills Stand Out
Add Skills to Your Resume: Add skill words/phrases to your resume. In the description of your work history, you might want to use some of these keywords listed above.
Highlight Skills in Your Cover Letter: In the body of your letter, you can mention one or two of these skills, and give a specific example of a time when you demonstrated those skills at work.
Use Skill Words in Your Job Interview: Mention your delegation abilities during an interview. Make sure you have at least one example for a time you demonstrated each of the skills listed above.
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