Episode #5 of the course Leadership: How to be a great boss by Chris Croft
Delegation is probably the most important management skill. It’s vital if you’re going to get enough done, and it’s a key part of motivation. But it can be hard to let go, hard to trust people who probably won’t do the job as well as you. They’ll certainly do it differently than you, which you may not like. And it does mean that you don’t always know everything that’s going on.
Delegating vs. Assigning Tasks
The essence of delegating is that you’re giving out parts of your job to someone who works for you. If you ask a van driver to deliver a parcel, that’s not delegating—that’s just asking them to do their job. But if you ask them to organize the vacation rota for all the drivers, that’s probably part of your job that you are delegating. Are you allowed to do this? Yes, you’re the boss and you can do whatever you like, especially if they will enjoy doing it and probably do it better than you.
Usually, people worry a lot about whether the person given the job will do it better or less well than them. Certainly, if they do it better than you, then that’s great—overcome your pride and just be glad that the task is done, and done well. It’s a result for the team, and you all get credit for that.
But what if they do it less well than you? The general rule is that if they can do it 80% as well as you, then give it to them. That last 20% is probably in your mind, anyway—they do it differently than you, which you will see as “less well”—and you have now freed up 100% of your time for something even more important.
If you think about something really vital, like medical surgery, young doctors have to be given the chance to operate at some point. If you wait for them to reach 100% skill level, you’ll wait forever, because they’ll never get a chance to learn. Yes, they might not be quite as good as you, and yes, perhaps even patients might be affected, but you, the surgeon, have to learn that one day, they’ll perhaps be even better than you. Meanwhile, your time is freed up to do even more difficult operations and save more lives.
The Process of Delegation
The following are key things to do when you delegate:
1. Emphasize the importance—for example, you might say, “This is an important job because …”
2. Explain the reasons (maybe skill, learning opportunity, etc.)—for example, you might use the following wording, “I am giving it to you because …”
3. Tell them the outcome you are looking for—but not HOW to do it, as that’s up to them.
4. Tell them how much time, and if applicable money, that they have available.
5. Explain that you will always be available for support—you could say, “If you have any difficulties, I promise I will always be supportive if you come to me.”
6. Agree with them that they will report back on progress every day/week/month—the time span will be decided based on how difficult the job is.
7. Check that they are okay—ask, “Do you feel you can do it?”
8. Check that they really can do it—ask, “What’s the first step you’ll be taking?”
9. Finish with encouragement—say, “Great, I know you can do it!”
Homework: Think about how you can delegate more. Have you delegated something to each person who works for you? Check the process of delegation one more time for any areas that you tend to forget, and try using them the next time you delegate something.
See you tomorrow for Empowerment!
Leadership: Theory and Practice, 7th Edition by Peter G. Northouse
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