The Fine Art of Delegation
by Loren Prairie, President & Founder, PCI Performance Management

If you can’t delegate, you will never be effective as a manager. Being able to leverage your entire team is the only way to maximize your whole department’s productivity. To use a sports analogy, it takes a whole team to win the game. Yet I see many managers trying to do it all themselves.
Let’s face it, they didn’t offer any managerial classes on delegation in school. Management and delegation in particular was rarely a subject mentioned in passing in other classes. Delegation certainly wasn’t taught. In fact, delegation has been something that teachers have scorned and ingrained in students’ minds not to do.
In school, delegation might be better known as cheating or plagiarism. In high school or college, would it have ever been acceptable to go up to someone and say “Can you do my homework for me?” or “Can you take this test for me?” However, that’s just what delegation calls for.
Even after graduation, delegation is still not seen as something viable or worthwhile. Most people are promoted by what they, themselves, accomplish. People are admired for their own work. In order to get promoted they must get ahead of the pack, through their own work, by their own accomplishments. They do better and get recognized for their own, individual efforts.
They become a superstar. To have someone do your work for you? Absurd. That's not how we are hard-wired to gain recognition. 
Even if a manager were to be told to delegate, they would most likely feel some resistance to the idea. It’s much easier to do it yourself. It’s done right and within your timeframe. There’s no need to explain the expectations to someone else. You don’t need to put your trust in a subordinate, who may not even know how to do the task. But the biggest reason managers don’t delegate is that they aren’t expected to. To be an effective manager, however, delegation is absolutely necessary.
That’s not to say delegation doesn’t come without its drawbacks. Delegation is certainly a skill that must be practiced and it does call for a lot of communication with the subordinate. You must delegate, not abdicate. That is, you can’t expect to just pass off a task and not check back in. Instead, you must communicate with the person what you are expecting of them and within what timeframe you want it done. If it’s a bigger project, what are some milestones and when do you expect them done? How much of it can be in the employee’s hands – what decisions can they make for themselves? What are you comfortable delegating?

“Delegate, don’t abdicate”

Some questions to help you get started:

  • What are you comfortable delegating?
  • What have you decided to delegate?
  • Will the employee need training?
  • Did you set expectations?
  • What it should look like when it’s done?
  • What time is it due?
  • If it’s a big project – what are the milestones?
  • What decisions can an employee make on their own?
  • How will you and the employee know if the whole delegation thing has been successful?
Ready to give it a shot?

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