Monday, March 9, 2009

Effective Delegation

An organization is defined as a structure through which individuals cooperate systematically to conduct business, and this is the purview of managers. It has been said that the best manager is the one who has the least amount to do. When you think about it, that axiom is true because a manager’s job is that of a coordinator inside an organization. To be effective, managers need to practice effective delegation.

The higher an owner or employee progresses in an organization, the greater their area of responsibility. There is a point at which the scope of their responsibility becomes larger than any one person can handle. That does not mean that they do not try, but another axiom says, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.” At that point one must delegate authority and responsibilities to other people. Otherwise, meeting the needs of the business through proper performance is jeopardized.

Two major benefits of effective delegation are the distribution of the work load and the development of subordinates.
The best way to figure out what can be delegated and what should not is to identify the elements of the work at hand. From that identification the elements can be put in different classifications such as A, B, and C items.

· “A” items are the few duties that are the most important and cannot be delegated. Only you can perform them.
· “B” items are some duties that are important but not critical, so they may be delegated to someone other than to you.
· “C” items are the greatest number of duties that are necessary to the business but of lesser importance than the “B” items. These should be delegated.

In my practice I routinely teach owners, executives and supervisors the importance of learning how to manage through other people. To be successful it is essential to keep control by holding subordinates accountable for their actions. One must strike a balance. You do not get so close that you are looking over subordinates’ shoulders. Neither do you want to become so far removed that you do not know what is going on. The way to succeed at that balance is to develop a system for getting feedback.

I have worked in companies that had reports on reports and conducted meetings on meetings. I never liked it, so whenever I hear someone in business say that they hate reports and meetings, I empathize with them. However, what they are telling me is that the paperwork and the blabberwork have lost reason. Reports and meetings mean nothing unless they have the purpose of keeping you informed. The reports should provide you information at the right time. Meetings should permit dialogue on activities, accomplishments, and problems -- an important part of the communication process.

It is not so much that there are rules to follow as accomplishments to achieve. The first thing to accomplish is to make sure that subordinates clearly understand the tasks they must perform. A good practice is to have your subordinates describe what it is they think you want them to accomplish. You also need to make sure that employees have the skill, talent, and ability to perform their job. The last thing you want is to delegate a job destined to result in failure or frustration.

Another good practice is to allow your subordinates latitude in how a job should be performed. Your way is not the only way. Having said that, however, make sure that you provide all the resources necessary to successfully perform a job. Let your subordinates do the work, but make sure that you can provide them with help in getting the job accomplished if necessary.

Everyone wins when you make a habit of doing the following early and often:
· Delegate not only the menial, unimportant jobs but also the significant ones. Employees will see this as a vote of confidence.
· Remain accessible. Always provide a safety net for your subordinates. Be available as necessary, but avoid engaging in over-the-shoulder surveillance.
· When a job is performed well, praise the subordinates for their performance.

In my experience delegation is the hardest job that business owners and managers have to learn. They confuse delegation with giving subordinates many responsibilities but little or no authority. Success requires both the delegation of responsibilities and of the authority. Enough authority must be delegated to accomplish the following:

· To get work done
· To allow key employees to take initiative
· To keep things going in your absence
· To develop subordinates
· To establish accountability
· To free up management time for higher level activity

In that way your responsibilities and the needs of the organization are effectively met. The higher up you progress in an organization, the more important the practice of effective delegation becomes. It might seem contra-intuitive, but the old axiom applies. You want to be the manager with the least amount to do.

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