“The surest way for an executive to kill himself is to refuse to learn how, and when, and to whom to delegate work.” – Cash Penney, founder of J.C. Penney
The truth and relevance of this quote is undeniable. Managers and executives oversee large numbers of employees, strategic plans and company processes. There is no way they have time to have their hands in everything. Delegating is a benefit to all involved if it is done right. It gives executives a chance to take a load off of their plates, and it gives employees an opportunity to do something new.
A clear distinction needs to be made between delegating, assigning and dumping. Delegating is transferring authority from one level of an organization to a lower level. Assigning involves a manager giving employees tasks within the scope of their positions that they are expected to know how to do. Dumping is passing “dirty work” off to employees who were not hired to handle it. Every position comes with some sort of administrative tasks. If you find yourself swamped by these tasks, consider hiring another administrative assistant.
Delegating is rarely stated explicitly in a job description for managers and executives, but it is just as important as any other job duty. Here are four signs that you need to do a better job of delegating tasks:
- You always work late.
- You constantly miss deadlines.
- You always feel stressed.
- The quality of your work has decreased.
Once you have accepted that you have too much on your plate, you need to decide to whom you will delegate which tasks. Every task cannot be delegated. Some decisions, like budgetary spending, must stay in the executive decision-making realm. Go through your tasks and decide which can be delegated. Then, think about which employees are the best fit for each task. If you need to research trends and you know one of your employees is particularly adept at researching, delegate that task to him or her. This gives you more assurance that the task will be done correctly and gives your employee an opportunity to shine.
Now it is time to actually delegate the tasks. Communication is vital during this step. You need to be very clear about what the task entails, how you want it done and the specific deadline. If you want your employee to be creative with methods of getting it done, tell them. Encourage your employee to ask questions to clarify the task. Never delegate too many tasks at once. Consultant Bill Zipp compares this to a drive by shooting – the employee will feel assaulted with an impossibly long list of things to do.
The job does not end once you have delegated the task. Set reminders to check in with the employee and see how things are going. You do not want to smother him or her but you do want to make sure the employee is making timely progress toward completion. Remember, the end results still fall on you.
Last, but most importantly, thank your employees. If you were impressed with their work, tell them! Thank them for willingly taking on an important task. Let them know how their work ties into the organization’s larger goals. If you have another related task coming up, discuss future opportunities for the employee to contribute.
The obvious benefit to delegating is that it frees executives to shift more of their focus to long-term planning and strategizing. But the employees also benefit. Delegating allows them to develop new skills. It also increases employee engagement and morale, which contributes to organizational success.
What tips do you have for delegating effectively?