Delegating Well Gives You a Competitive Advantage
Not only is there an art to delegating--with intelligence and authority--but you'll find you have more time, more engaged and productive employees, and more peace with your job.
It's a key measure of a leader’s effectiveness whether he or she has the chops to enable other people to get things done. A recent study found that 53 percent of business owners believe that they can grow their business by more than 20 percent if they delegate 10 percent of their workload to someone else.
So do it. Here's how.
Prepare to delegate.
The first step is often the hardest. Think about slowing down the pace and making sure that people are doing things right. Entrepreneurs sometimes view planning as a hindrance to getting their best work done, but planning to delegate is an investment in your people, your company's culture, and in your business.
Decide what to delegate.
Delegate recurring tasks, detail work, attendance at some meetings, and activities that will be part of team members’ future responsibilities. Reserve for yourself performance evaluations, disciplinary actions, counseling and morale problems, confidential tasks, tasks specifically assigned to you, complex situations, and sensitive situations.
Decide who to delegate to.
When assigning a task, consider each person’s demonstrated skill, interest in the task, and current workload. Know his or her record of success on similar assignments--how they work with others, when they operate best, and how well they are at working under pressure.
Tell employees clearly what they're being asked to do.
Make sure employees understand the responsibilities they are assuming and that they accept them. Ask them to confirm their understandings with you.
Describe the task and the performance standards.
Explain both the overall goals of the task along with the standards that will be used to measure results. Make sure the goals are specific, attainable, relevant, and measurable.
Grant enough authority and resources to complete the task.
Any delegated task must be accompanied by a delegation of authority, that is, the power and resources to get the job done. Authority may include giving the employee power to spend money, seek assistance from others, or represent the department of company.
Monitor the delegation.
Monitoring the work of people will both motivate them and help you to catch problems as they arise. An inexperienced team member will need more oversight. More experienced employees can handle greater freedom and self-manage their initiative, ingenuity, and imagination.
Take corrective action.
If the work veers too far from the planned guidelines, take immediate and decisive corrective action. You're not doing anyone any favors by being taciturn about your concerns. Mutually agree on a plan to return to the targeted goals. If the situation doesn't improve, end the assignment and move on.
Provide feedback and reward good results.
Make sure to contribute both positive and negative feedback so the person you're giving responsibility to will understand what he or she is doing well and how they need to improve. Exceptional performance is more likely to continue if it's recognized and rewarded. Do follow through when someone performs exceptionally and be generous with promotions, salary increases and bonuses, and sincere and heartfelt thank-you's.
Engaged and experienced people give you a competitive advantage.
When you delegate well, you create a backup pool of trained and experienced people who can help solve problems and and pursue opportunities on the job. That gives you more organizational flexibility and agility, and it creates a livelier and more focused environment for your employees. And that in turn gives you a distinct and long-lasting competitive advantage, no matter what industry you’re in.
While Peter Economy has spent the better part of two decades of his life slugging it out mano a mano in the management trenches, he is also the best-selling author of Managing for Dummies, The Management Bible, Leading Through Uncertainty, and more than 75 other books, with total sales in excess of two million copies. He has also served as associate editor for Leader to Leader for more than 10 years, where he has worked on projects with the likes of Jim Collins, Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith, and many other top management and leadership thinkers. Sign up here to always stay up to date with Peter's latest Inc.com columns, and visit him anytime at petereconomy.com.