First month of new year has passed and along with it a new set of goals, tasks and projects, which unsurprisingly go over standard work hours of a manager. There is a question on how to distribute this Christmas gift between subordinates so it won’t all come back to us in a while.
I decided to take up the topic of delegating tasks, because it comes up very often during workshops that I run. Interestingly, most of the management knows how to do it, yet in practice it gets more difficult. This is why I would like to share a few practical tips, which can accelerate efficiency of managing a subordinate team.
Why can delegating be tricky?
In order to delegate effectively, one has to remember that basic difficulty is distinctively time consuming task of preparing an employee to perform a task, which the supervisor wants to delegate on him. When one starts thinking about another meeting, introduction to the task and explaining the complexities, manager very often decides to get the job done himself or he doesn’t make enough time for introducing a person to the task. The effect is easy to predict, in the first situation the amount of things to do rises and in the second the probability of mistakes is high. What should then be considered when talking about delegating?
Preparation for delegating
Delegating can be a foundation for a win-win situation between the boss and the workers if the basic criteria are met. Thus, before the manager gets to work, it’s good for him to ask himself the following questions:
Can somebody else perform this task or does it requite my personal engagement?
Does this task have a chance being repeatable and becoming some sort of routine?
Does accomplishing this task give a chance to develop new competences for particular subordinates?
Does a manager have enough time to prepare an employee to perform the task and to monitor his progress?
Is there a team member who could benefit from this task (develop competencies, widen the horizons of functioning in the job position or organization)?
At the phase of preparing to delegate, it is good to remember that there are certain tasks that should not be delegated, such as:
holding strateging meaning to an organization or department,
Confidential, which should be accessed only by a manager,
Short-term and low probability of mistakes
It is good to remember that through valid delegating, the manager builds a higher sense of responsibility for the results and motivation because employees feel that organization trusts them more and develop their competences.
Just like any other process, delegating too consists of different stages. Its effectiveness depends on the quality of performing each of them and any inadequacy rises the risk of failure in the end.
Setting clear expectations – manager gives the details about a particular task to the employee:
What is the task about?
What is the standard to refer to when performing it?
When should the employee get back with initial results?
How will the manager monitor the progress?
What are the deadlines?
Note: a crucial aspect of setting expectations in highlighting the way of monitoring the progress and deadlines at the very beginning. If the manager forgets to inform the employee that his progress will be monitored and do it ad-hoc instead, there is a high possibility that the employee will feel controlled instead of motivated – it will be like the supervisor questioned his capabilities.
Definition of a deadline can be interpreted differently by different team members so it is good to calibrate this definition instead of being disappointed later on. To exemplify, I want to share some deadline definitions I encountered:
It is a date, when…
… an initial draft should be presented,
… final draft will be presented,
… a task will take it’s final form and come to an end.
It is good to keep in mind that a new task will take an employee more time than it would take a manager. This is why more time should be given to an employee so he can deliver it on time.
2. Creating a sense of ownership – at this stage the manager clarifies the WHY behind delegating the task to a particular person and shows benefits of such situation to the employee. Later on, he discusses possible ways of realizing the task as well as creates a plan for an employee to realize different stages of the task.
The reasons why are very important to the employees because then they know that the manager isn’t using them to avoid the things he himself doesn’t want to do but is an expression of trust, appreciation and engagement and an opportunity to develop professional competencies. And so, one of the elements of building authority of the leader among subordinates.
This stage should end with agreeing on methods of communication and monitoring of progress, which is acceptable by both sides.
3. Results monitoring – this stage should be helpful both for the manager and the employee as a tool for exchanging information and not only control. It is crucial for the manager to stick to the agreement concerning monitoring.
Asking about the progress too often can be irritating and – in the long run – demotivating and disengaging to an employee.
Monitoring allows to correct any discrepancies that occurred in the process of realization and grants time to make changes calibrating the end effect.
4. Feedback – this stage is extremely important to keep the motivation of the subordinate to the task accomplished and to create a working environment in which the subordinates will be willing to take on more and more difficult tasks to perform.
There are many feedback models, but they have one common principle: “Hard to the problem, soft to the human.” Unfortunately, many bosses seem to forget this principle. Therefore, it is important to remember the main purpose of feedback: to build motivation to change behavior. Only then will we achieve the long-term development of the subordinate and create the demand for feedback from the boss. Any feedback should answer the following questions:
What should be changed?
Who will do it?
After that, how will one know that one has completed the task in the expected standard? And conclude with closing of the communication loop, thus obtaining a confirmation from the subordinate that his way of understanding is in harmony with what the supervisor understands.
5. Prize – this is a step very-often overlooked by superiors, and that’s a pity. Because it is an opportunity when a supervisor can celebrate success with an employee, appreciate his or her contribution and commitment, and show other members that the attitude is rewarded and expected by the organization.
It is worth remembering that recognition is as important to people as money. Therefore, the boss should not allow himself to defraud the resources by refraining from appreciating and objectively evaluating person’s individual contribution to the development of the organization. By bypassing this stage, the leader loses the extremely rare opportunity to build an atmosphere of engagement, collaboration and creativity of subordinates, because appreciating employees who receive delegated tasks makes the rest of the team develop their competencies by engaging in new responsibilities.
At first glance it may seem that delegation causes more trouble and costs a lot of time, but when done consistently allows the team to generate above average results, and lets the manager redirect key activities for his Business task. It will thus create an engaged team that develops their expertise and builds the authority of the leader.