Business advice: Delegation

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delegation

By Bill Caswell

Special to Ontario Construction News

One delegates to another so that one’s area can do more. However, delegation carries with it actions that we don’t like: some of us have a hard time just letting go.

We have to take the risk to trust that some new person will not screw up the assignment. We have to provide suitable training. We have to watch, agonizingly, as the new individual seems to take forever to accomplish a simple task. We have to allow mistakes to take place, so that the learning individual can truly absorb the mechanics of the task. That is, we become obligated to invest our time and our patience in the new person.

Yet, once that learning individual masters the delegated task, we are relieved of one more job and can move onto more challenging work, ourselves. Delegation means that instead of working alone, I can distribute my work among two or three other people and step up to the higher-level work that is anxiously calling my name.

More and more, we see bosses of otherwise exciting enterprises hold back their growth because of an inability to delegate. So, where does one begin on this delegating path?

Decide to delegate

Make a conscious decision to delegate. Start the ball rolling for yourself by confirming you want to take this action.

Choose a task and a person

Start small and on familiar territory. That is, decide on a task that is one you feel you can pass onto another and, if you can, choose a person you are already comfortable with.

Write out a delegation plan

For this first endeavour, you can benefit from creating a written plan to strategize your specific direction. Headings that you might include are:

  • When the delegation will take place;
  • Person that the task is to be delegated to;
  • My own task that I am prepared to pass on;
  • Training that I will provide to the person so delegated;
  • Time (or other) benefit I expect once the task has been delegated;
  • Results expected from having delegated this task; when, and how frequently;
  • How far I will let this person go:
    • without my interfering
    • the amount of money I should allow to be wasted
    • how much extra time will be needed to complete this task by the newbie; and
  • What I will do to control my own frustration at the long time the task is taking or the silly errors that are being made.

Keep the ball rolling

Without repeating the formality of the delegating plan, assign more tasks to more people, handing as much off as you can. Replace the thought “Well this is something I can do quickly myself – so I won’t bother delegating it,” with: “Is this a task I can train someone else to do?” If this answer is “yes” then, delegate it. This is a critical question you must continually respond to.

Your goals

I must not lose sight of my goals, which are:

  • To make my overall area more productive;
  • To be relieved of some of my tasks (so that I am freed to do other more sophisticated jobs); and
  • To create superstars out of ordinary employees. This is perhaps the most rewarding aspect of delegating. By increasing individuals’ responsibilities, you train them to handle more. You offer the potential for people to rise to the occasion, and to really show what they are made of.  Untapped talent is given the chance to shine. You assist them to move from the ‘helpless child’ stage to become a highly contributing member of your team.

Finally, you are on the path of becoming in awe of your employees – the true measure of a manager’s success.

Good luck.

Bill Caswell leads the Caswell Corporate Coaching Company (CCCC) in Ottawa, www.caswellccc.com or email bill@caswellccc.com.

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