3 Tips for Effective Delegation

February 20, 2013


Our survey of recommendations and pointers concerning time management would not be complete if we did not cast our glance in one final direction—toward delegation.

Perhaps I’m alone in this, but delegation has always felt like a foreign and distant land in the dominion of time management. It is not strictly a matter of planning out an agenda, or cataloguing and rearranging information, or taking action to make more efficient use of one’s space. Moreover, it is an affair limited to those vested with authority and responsibilities to impart, and so not exactly something guaranteed to be apposite for just anyone looking for assistance in the management of time.

Nevertheless, delegation can impact the pace at which the wheels of business roll on. And it continues to find some place in the pages of time management books. So, far be from me to commit a crime of solecism and leave the matter untouched.

Delegation can be a tricky thing for entrepreneurs and managers, especially the former. What regularly makes many business owners, business owners is their personality just as much as any skill set they possess. Whatever the precise biological, psychological, social, or environmental cause or causes, they simply work better when placed in the driver’s seat.

So the first matter before any delegating can occur is for the manager or business leader (to work) to disarm their proclivity for direct control. Although rationalizations may be tempting to buy into for justifying the choice to keep a direct hold over various matters of authority and responsibility (e.g., via the pretenses of perfectionism and petty concerns about someone gaining an upper hand) these need to be recognized for what they are and shoved aside. Because ultimately, regardless of what appearances may suggest, a manager has no real control if he does not first have self-control.

Delegation must be done in a responsible manner. It is not enough to do as some managers do: “delegate” by surprising their subordinate with the transferred responsibilities, only to follow this up by not following up at all. This leads to the task falling back on the manager, at least in part if not entirely. This is fair to neither party, and borders on cruel if it comes back as a negative mark on the employee’s performance assessment. In delegating responsibly, the manager must be sure to train their employee on the delegated responsibilities and perform regular follow-up assessments to ensure they are mastering their new tasks accordingly.

In delegating be sure to observe these three things:

Exercise patience. Those now in a position to decide whether to delegate are products of those who before them had to make a similar decision to delegate—something that at the time probably required some level of patience too. Thus exercising patience does more than build camaraderie with employees, and increase efficiency and productivity; it keeps one clear from the charge of hypocrisy.

Give specific and clear instructions and objectives. Here’s one area where assumptions can cause a problem or two. How something is or has been done can be so instinctive as to lead one to presume explanation is unnecessary. However, one’s perception and knowledge about something is not always that of another’s. Avoid any potential pitfalls in this area by laying out your directives with clarity.

Provide feedback without strong-arming. Here one must exercise proper discernment. On the one hand, clarity and precision must be sought and reasonable demands placed on the subordinate; on the other, a manager can severely disrupt the productivity of particularly self-conscious employees by the overexposure of his or her presence.  Wherever the balance lies for each employee, the manager should provide encouraging feedback when progress is made.



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