Imagine a juggler with so many balls in the air that it becomes impossible to maintain the act. One by one the balls drop, because the “act” is simply unsustainable. This is the manager who doesn’t delegate. Conversely, consider the manager who delegates too freely, without much consideration given to what should be delegated and to whom; this is like bowling with a blindfold on. If you’re lucky you’ll hit some pins, but results will be highly unpredictable.
Delegating can be one of the tougher challenges for new managers, and many find themselves in either the juggler or the blindfolded bowler position. To get it right, you first have to have a clear vision of what makes up effective delegation; it is handing off a task to another person who is competent to do the task without close supervision. Note, some monitoring of the delegated task is necessary to confirm it’s being done well, especially if it’s a new task to the employee. Following are five tips to get you on the road to effective hand-offs:
Tip #1: Get an Attitude Adjustment
Come to grips with the fact that you were placed in a management position to get results through others. (Some management roles still involve a certain amount of straddling both the old and the new job. May the force be with you if you’ve been told to do your old job in its entirety and manage others as well.) If your accomplishments in the job from which you’ve been promoted were gratifying, you may gravitate toward continuing to do those tasks yourself. In that case, remind yourself daily to let go of old activities no longer part of your job. Your new role involves providing training and direction to your direct reports as well as support, acknowledgment, and a pat on the back for jobs well done.
Tip #2: Assess
Assess your team members’ capabilities on a task-by-task basis. Ramon may be good at taking inventory, but he’s never done ordering before and doesn’t know the custom software system for doing so. Or, Sarah may be great at teaching others the new electronic medical records procedures, but she has no idea about the principles of scheduling the medical staff. Both are components of her job. Ask yourself, “Is a particular team member sufficiently proficient in a task, that I can confidently delegate it to them?” (“If I throw the ball, will he or she catch it?”)
Tip #3: Train
If the answer to the last question is “no,” then it’s time for training. Training, by the way, does not necessarily need to be done by you. It may be that someone else has more appropriate expertise to train in a particular process or task then you do. It’s your job as the manager to get the training resources in place for your employee.
Tip #4: Assign
When an employee has had the necessary experience or training to be proficient, you can be confident about assigning the task. If you’re still uncertain, ask the person about their confidence to do the task and/or ask them to demonstrate it for you. Seeing their competence should give you the confidence to “let go” of a task. Cautionary note: Don’t simply drop an assignment on someone’s desk. It’s important to provide specific standards for completing the task, e.g., deadlines for completion, how many copies should be made, where to store it, how to distribute it, how to display it, etc.
Tip #5: Monitor
Check in early to confirm that the task is being completed in a manner that meets the standards you’ve set. If there are mistakes, provide a quick comment to re-direct performance in order to avoid a ripple effect on other projects or other people’s jobs.
Keep these five tips in mind and your job will become easier; delegating will become second nature for you and your team will be well prepped to “catch the balls.”