As we shall discuss, delegation is not about farming out work and forgetting about it altogether. For the delegation of work to be effective and to result in win-win situations, there are certain myths worth clarifying.
The Wolf and the Shepherd
Effective Delegation of Work
A Wolf had been prowling around a flock of Sheep for a long time, and the Shepherd watched very anxiously to prevent him from carrying off a Lamb. But the Wolf did not try to do any harm. Instead he seemed to be helping the Shepherd take care of the Sheep. At last the Shepherd got so used to seeing the Wolf about that he forgot how wicked he could be.
One day he even went so far as to leave his flock in the Wolf's care while he went on an errand. But when he came back and saw how many of the flock had been killed and carried off, he knew how foolish to trust a Wolf as he exclaimed. “I have been rightly served; why did I trust my sheep to a Wolf?”
Delegate your task wisely, and only to people you trust.
Lessons in life:
Companies have risen and fallen because they have entrusted the wrong CEOs and successors with the management duties. Many great family businesses had been ruined at the hands of the children or grandchildren who took over the helm, based on who they were rather than what they could do. When businesses failed, CEOs rightfully took the brunt. The people responsible for delegating the management duties should not be spared either.
A proper delegation should be viewed as a sharing of responsibility, and not a passing of the baton. When a leader assigns tasks to the other team members, it remains his responsibility to monitor and ensure that the members complete the assigned tasks. Along the way, when the members face difficulties and hurdles, the leader should step in to assist and advise. Of course, for any delegation to be effective, the leader must empower the members and confer on them a certain amount of authority and resources necessary for the tasks at hand. What we are saying is that the leader cannot assign all his functions, powers and authority, and still expect to be called a leader. He would be a consultant and not the person-in-charge.
A skillful delegation should therefore lead to a happy solution for everyone. The CEO has time to look at the overall direction of growth, strategic plans and policies of the company, while retaining the top spot and top salary. The deputy CEOs and departmental chiefs have the necessary powers and authority to run the show, and make decisions within their portfolio. The middle managers, supervisors and heads take charge of the day- to-day operational activities, and are empowered to make decisions within their scope of work.
Since delegating work plays such an important role for successful CEOs, why are most of them not doing it, or not doing enough?
Why do we see CEOs attending to routine low-level tasks and even chairing meetings on totally operational matters? There are various reasons why we - CEOs, leaders and managers - avoid delegating our tasks and responsibility. Here are some reasons and the ways to get around them:-
1. Do not trust employees with the responsibility.
Even the most skillful manager will have this nagging feeling that the person tasked with the job cannot carry it out in the way he wants. Maybe the manager is a perfectionist. If so, the problem lies with the manager having expectations that are too high and onerous. It could also be that the manager does not have a habit of giving clear instructions on what the task entails. Although managers should not have to resort to holding the staff's hands in every matter, it is always advisable to clearly define the tasks and leave no room for doubt. Ultimately, the questions that we should ask ourselves are these – If we do not trust the staff, why do we employ them in the first place? If they don't have the skill, why don't we send them for further training?
2. Only we know best.
While it is true that experience is what earn the managers their position, nobody can claim to be a walking encyclopedia on all matters. The workers doing the factory-line, front desk jobs day in and day out, are the only people who know the work and the problems faced at the back of their hands.
3. Work faster on our own.
If we have done a piece of work before, we can do it again faster and better. We can continue taking on the same assignment and after the hundredth time, we may complete it twice as fast. Think then, if we train another person to do it, will that person not be able to arrive at the same achievement over time? We are freeing up more of our time to do other work and duties, and on the whole, complete all our work in a much shorter time.
4. We lose our control.
How much control do we want? Are we really concerned about the process or the outcome? We can work with the employee to come up with a mutually agreeable process, but it is the outcome that we are targeting. By assigning the job, we risk losing control over the little bits of how the job is done although we can continue to maintain control over the important aspects of the job by spelling out the expected output and performance targets as well as quality control checks and standards.
5. We lose our authority.
This again depends on how you view the word “authority”. We may not have direct supervision over groups of employees. They will report to their immediate supervisors. However, these supervisors are now under our charge, and our authority is in effect extended. It is akin to changing our authority from a parent to a grand-parent. In a typical family structure, the grand-parent status is the most revered and respected.
6. We lose credit and recognition.
This is a sore point which most managers have. Assigning jobs means letting other people take the credit for jobs well done. Can this be true? If we believe in the concept of teamwork, won't the achievement of a team accrue to every team member, including the leader of the team? If our employees steal the limelight for an accomplishment, will some light not be thrown onto us as well for our good leadership and management? Good managers should also be professional enough to acknowledge that the staff who do the work ought to get most of the praises.
Nowadays, performance incentives are tied to the team and not individual efforts, and the people leading successful teams are those who are most valued.
7. Employees are not committed.
This is where the delegation skills come in. In explaining the tasks, managers should let the employees see how the tasks fit into the overall scheme of things. Let them know the expectations and rewards. Let the employees be the ones raising their hands to volunteer for and commit themselves to the project.
8. We cannot keep track of developments.
We mentioned that after parceling out the tasks, our duties do not end there. We have to continue to monitor the progress of the tasks. Usually, this is done by having reporting officers submit detailed status updates on what they have completed and how much of the work is outstanding. This will give us a gauge on whether the work can be completed on time. We are after all responsible for the final outcome and while we should not micro manage the work process, we should not lose track of its developments.