Watch for These Delegation Mis-steps

Delegation is an essential skill for the effective leader-manager. Yet, in our busy, crisis-driven work lives, sometimes the most we can muster is the energy to toss a task or responsibility “over the cubicle wall” and hope that the recipient doesn’t drop the ball. Or, even fire it back.

You may recognise these three common mistakes if you have been on either end of a bad delegation exchange.

  1. Dumping. You may think you are doing an excellent job in delegating an assignment to one of your employees but wonder why the individual is not excited about the opportunity. The most likely reason: poor communication of the “WIIFM” – the “what’s in it for me.” Don’t assume the employee knows and understands your motivation. Eliminate the perception of dumping by, first, making sure there actually IS something of value there, such as greater responsibility, more autonomy, new skills, etc. Then take the time to explain the benefits in a way that will motivate.
  2. The Boomerang (a.k.a., reverse or upward delegation). Sometimes employees feel they don’t know how to do the task delegated to them. This could be a lack of knowledge or skill, but it might also be a question of confidence. In this situation, you may find them coming back and asking you what to do. Many managers fall into the boomerang trap by taking the assignment back. To correct this situation, apply Situational Leadership theory. Use your best coaching skills to find out what the employee lacks. Together, create a plan to develop the needed skills and confidence. Offer help and support, but don’t take back an assignment that you have delegated.
  3. Grabbing the glory. Some managers seem to overlook the importance of giving credit where credit is due. Don’t take personal credit for an employee’s hard work. Make sure that you give the appropriate recognition and then quietly appreciate yourself for being a great delegator.

Delegating is part of the tool kit of every effective leader , and it can be deliberately learned.

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Steps to Successful Delegating

Delegation, done well, benefits both you and your employees. If you have a suitable task or responsibility to delegate and an appropriate person to entrust it to, consider these steps:

  1. Once you’ve determined what you’re going to delegate, take the time to plan how you will present the assignment, including your requirements, parameters, authority level, checkpoints and expectations. It is a good idea to write this down!
  2. Choose the right person. Assess the skills and the experience of your employees as objectively as possible. Don’t be too quick to choose the person who you know you can always depend on.
  3. Give an overview including the importance of the assignment and why you have chosen this employee. Share your written plan.
  4. Describe the new responsibility outlining sub-tasks, defining parameters, setting performance standards, identifying available resources, support, etc. Make sure the employee understands his/her level or degree of authority. Make sure that you notify those affected by the employee’s new power.
  5. Solicit questions, reactions, and suggestions. At this point you may want to ask the employee what approach he/she might take.
  6. Listen to the employee’s comments and respond empathetically. This step helps to get employee “buy-in” and will also help you determine if the employee does indeed understand what is expected. If the employee already feels overwhelmed, help establish priorities and relieve some of the pressure by putting other support in place for routine tasks.
  7. Ask the employee for commitment and offer help if needed.
  8. Encourage. Express confidence in the employee’s ability to successfully handle the new responsibility.
  9. Establish checkpoints, deadlines and ways to monitor progress. The entire discussion should be a collaborative process. You should strive for mutual agreement.
  10. Keep in contact with the employee and observe the checkpoints the two of you agreed to. Monitor and give feedback. However, don’t hover. Delegating means letting go!
  11. Recognize and reward the person for his/her successful completion of the assignment.

With practice, you will have happier, more engaged and more productive people through delegation.

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Having Fun While Team Building

Emily workingIt’s long been known that laughter opens up people to new experiences, this is also true for both large and small organizations. When teams begin to laugh and enjoy themselves their natural defenses, which often inhibit growth, begin to disappear. This often opens the door to creativity and new ideas.

But how does one lighten the mood? You can start by injecting an element of fun into everyday work activities. Toys often help, start a meeting with a game of Jenga – you’d be surprised how many Nerf toys wind up at the office. And don’t be afraid to let your team take the lead and be sure to be 100% behind them.

You hired this team because they had a passion for what they do, adding some fun to their day will bring back that passion. Through emphasizing it’s importance in your core values, culture and teams, you can ensure that fun in the office prevails.

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Team Building and Goal Setting

Sports teams want to win the championship, climbing teams want to reach the summit and race car drivers want to see the checkered flag. Common with all three is the need to have a clear and achievable goal. It is this goal that allows the team to stay focused and perform at a higher level with more confidence.

Work place teams require the same thing – a common goal that encourages them to work together and focus on mutual success. The actual process of team building excels dramatically when achievable goals are established from the outset.

Simply put, goals engage employees and provide them with the confidence needed to encourage others, provide directions and be an active participant in the team.

Here are 4 tips:

Tip 1 – Work with the team to establish a clear goal with tangible results.

Tip 2 – Have the team list the steps required to achieve the goal – a to-do list

Tip 3 – Establish a plan to complete each item on the to-do list including measurable benchmarks

Tip 4 – Clearly define what the results will be once the goal is achieved

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Benefits of Delegating

As a Manager, the secret of success is not in doing your own work, but in recognizing the right person to do it. After all, you can’t be everywhere all the time. Done well, delegating can have great benefits to you, your employees and your organization. So …

… Do it for yourself. Good delegation:

  • Makes your job easy and exciting
  • Reduces stress and makes you look good
  • Frees you to do what you should be doing
  • Develops trust and rapport with your employees
  • Grooms your successor so that you can move on to bigger and better things. Often managers and supervisors derail their own advancement by not having someone to take their place.

… Do it for your employees. They benefit as delegation:

  • Provides professional growth opportunities
  • Develops their professional knowledge and skills
  • Elevates their self-image and ultimately self-esteem
  • Enhances their confidence and value to the organization
  • Brings them personal satisfaction and a sense of achievement
  • Gives them opportunities to be involved with decision making which in turn leads to more commitment and increased morale.

… Do it for your organization. Delegation:

  • Saves money
  • Promotes teamwork
  • Brings about professionalism
  • Improves morale
  • Increases productivity and efficiency.

With all the potential benefits, we should be delegating. Look to future blogs for step to step advice for effective delegating.

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