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How to Delegate Effectively

Founder of the JC Penney retail chain, James Cash Penney once said “the surest way for an executive to kill himself is to refuse to learn how, and when, and to whom to delegate work”.

Through delegation, a manager can multiply themselves by dividing work with subordinates and also often, outsourced expertise. It is for this reason that delegation is one of the most important management skills.

Read on to find out:

  • How to save managerial time

  • How to delegate to the best people

  • How to develop employees

How to save managerial time

Jeffrey Pfeffer, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Stanford University writes that, the most important task as a leader is to “teach people how to think and ask the right questions”. He says that this is crucial so that “the world doesn’t go to hell if you take a day off”.

It is not uncommon for managers to say that they are too busy to delegate, and that it is more efficient for them to do things themselves. Executive Coach and Entrepreneur Columnist, Sumi Krishnan, imparted a valuable piece of managerial advice to Forbes, saying that at the end of each day managers should write down 2 things that they did that somebody else could have done. When reviewing this list at the end of the week, managers can easily look back on tasks that absorbed man hours that somebody else could have easily accomplished for them.

This simple habit will allow you to measure and review your delegation on a weekly basis, and evaluate the impact that it has on your time and workload.

How to delegate to the best people

When delegating internally, managers should consider carefully which tasks they should delegate and to who. Observe the skills and characteristics of those who will deliver well when certain tasks are delegated to them - don’t simply delegate to those that are the least busy, as if you are not entirely comfortable with that person’s competency, you will never officially let go of that task.

Martin Zwilling, Forbes Contributor and CEO of StartUp Professionals, places particular importance on delegating responsibility and authority, not just the task. Managers who “fail to delegate responsibility” actually find themselves sometimes reporting to their subordinates and doing some of the work instead of the other way around.

As noted above, it is important to place trust in those that you are delegating to. In order to do this, you will need to ensure that your instructions and deadlines are clear. Ensure that your explanation is thorough enough so that the person you are delegating to can truly grasp what is expected from them.

How to develop employees

It is important those that you delegate to don’t feel like a dumping ground for tasks that you do not want to complete. This should be overcome if the above point of matching an employee to a task is followed, and in delegating the employee is made aware of why they have been chosen to take over a job or responsibility.

To go further, managers should consistently give credit where credit is due – whether publicly or privately. Letting employees and team members know that you are satisfied with a job well done will open them up to becoming more loyal and to taking on further responsibility.

Also, delegate with participation and discussion in mind. Encourage and invite questions and participation from your employees, and be open to suggestions. The relationship between how much people understand and accept a job, and how committed they will become to it should never be underestimated. Give your employees the opportunities to own their tasks.

Ultimately, accountability is the foundation of delegation, giving employees full recognition of their status and responsibility in ensuring the deliverable comes in on time. While achieving good delegation is a process that needs to be nurtured, once mastered it will become a core skill whose benefits will reverberate throughout the business.

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