Delegate Or Suffocate

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Delegate Or Suffocate

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Management is delegation. Either learn to delegate or you will be buried in work that others could, and should, be doing. ‘Managing’ is the alternative to doing something yourself. Management responsibility is the del- egation of tasks to others, and the control of outcomes. If you could get everything done your- self, there would be no need for staff. If you cannot do everything yourself, there needs to be delegation. If there needs to be delegation, then someone must manage the assignments....

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  1. Expert Reference Series of White Papers Delegate or Suffocate – the Art of Working Through Others 1-800-COURSES
  2. Delegate or Suffocate – the Art of Working Through Others Brian Denis Egan, Global Knowledge Instructor, MBA Introduction Management is delegation. Either learn to delegate or you will be buried in work that others could, and should, be doing. ‘Managing’ is the alternative to doing something yourself. Management responsibility is the del- egation of tasks to others, and the control of outcomes. If you could get everything done your- self, there would be no need for staff. If you cannot do everything yourself, there needs to be delegation. If there needs to be delegation, then someone must manage the assignments. Managers are necessary because of the need to assign and monitor resources (people and assets). Managers must learn to delegate assignments and ensure that they are completed correctly, on time, and within budget. Professional success is directly proportional to one’s abil- ity to work through others. The more people that a manager can put to effective use, the greater the success of the man- ager. The more efficiently a manger can put people to work, the greater the success of the manager. As you learn to delegate effectively, your productivity and value to a corporation rise. Cream Rises With seniority comes increasing levels of supervision. Job descriptions change from ‘doing’, to ‘getting things done’; from responsibility to accountability. The more senior your position the more your time is devoted to managing delegated tasks. Supervising, offering advice, guiding, encouraging, cajoling, extending resources - these are not interruptions, they are the job. At the executive level, one’s entire day is spent making sure that delegated tasks are being completed properly. Being able to get others to do things, and do them well, is the principle skill of executives. Good Help Is Hard to Find Therefore, your success as a manager depends on your ability to assign tasks, and the ability of your staff to accomplish them in a timely, effective manner. “But my staff can’t seem to get anything right.” What’s a manager to do? Copyright ©2005 Global Knowledge Network, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 2
  3. There are two skills sets required for effective delegation. One is management’s ability to effec- tively and efficiently delegate and monitor tasks. The other is the ability of staff members to accept assignments with minimal instructions and supervision. Both are skills that need to be honed. If your staff can’t seem to get anything right, it is your (management’s) responsibility to correct the situation. This is not an option – it’s a necessity. What Do We Mean by ‘Good’? For the purposes of delegation, “good” staff refers to people who can easily be assigned com- plex tasks. They are self-motivated problem solvers who are technically capable. Good staff members are responsive to deadlines and budgets with little or no supervision. Wow. Good Staff Members Are Developed Good people are hard to find, because no manager wants to lose them. If you want to have good people you need to create and hold them. Good staff members are developed through the experience that you, the manager, give them. Assignments should build on abilities, experience, and confidence. The ability to accept assignments is a learned skill that is developed through experience, training, and feedback. Delegating Motivates Job satisfaction derives from being challenged and receiving encouragement. Delegating effec- tively serves both these needs. Giving your staff responsibility and showing them that you (management) believe they are capable of accomplishing a big task on their own, is a huge compliment and a prime motivational tool. Brilliant managers make sure that assignments, particularly complex tasks, are perceived as compliments. Tell your staff members that you know they can handle the tasks you are assign- ing, and tell them often. Then raise the bar even higher. Not only is delegating essential, it makes everyone happier. Professional staff members are motivated through responsibility, authority, and autonomy. Properly presented, delegation will provide staff with the experience they need to develop their careers and at the same time pro- vide both job satisfaction and challenge. Delegating works for everyone. Management Skills As a manager you need to study the steps involved in efficient delegation and then practice, practice, practice. The ability to delegate complex tasks is developed through experience. Managers learn how to delegate. Staff members learn how to complete tasks according to expectations. Both sides must learn what works. Both sides must practice. If something goes wrong with a delegated task it is the manager’s fault. Getting things done (taking responsibility for the task) is the role of the delegate. Making sure they are done cor- Copyright ©2005 Global Knowledge Network, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 3
  4. rectly (accountability for the task) is the role of management. When something goes wrong management needs to fix it, learn from the mistake, and make sure it does not happen again. Nurture the Skills You Need Assigning blame does not benefit anyone – coaching, mentoring, and honest appraisals do. When a delegated task goes awry, it is often due to misunderstood instructions, a lack of train- ing, or unrealistic expectations. To correct the situation a manager must find out what happened (by speaking with the dele- gate involved), and work to create an environment where the same mistake will not be repeat- ed. Nurture average staff through training, coaching, mentoring, and honest appraisals. The key to successful delegation is to balance the two sides of the delegation equation. Through feedback, a manager must make sure that a delegate will not repeat a mistake. Through self-assessment, the manager must ensure that the way a delegate is chosen and how tasks are explained is realistic and complete. Learn from mistakes (yours and theirs) by making sure you both know what they were and how not to repeat them. Delegation Is a Balancing Act Delegating is all about entrusting another person with a task but remaining ultimately responsi- ble. It is a balancing act between autonomy and control. What authority does the delegate receive with the assignment? How closely should they be watched? Reluctance to delegate complex tasks demonstrates a reluctance to pass on authority. Managers who insist on doing tasks themselves do so because they do not trust anyone else with authority for that task. The less trust a manager has in the skills, capabilities, and judg- ment of others, the more they will insist on doing themselves. When a task is delegated, it comes with some degree of autonomy. The question for the manager is, what degree of auton- omy? What level of decision making comes with the assignment? How closely does the task need to be monitored? The answers depend on the relationship between the manager and staff involved. The need to create a successful balance between autonomy and control is why delegating is an experi- enced-based skill. What a manager believes can be delegated depends on a manager’s confi- dence in the assignee. Confidence comes from experience (on both sides). Experience comes from practice. The Five Steps of Delegation 1. Define task – define objectives and sort workload into manageable chunks 2. Select staff – name delegates based on skills and experience 3. Inform delegate – prepare brief, explain plan, and record process 4. Monitor progress – control and manage 5. Final review – appraise, review, and record outcomes Copyright ©2005 Global Knowledge Network, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 4
  5. First, objectives need to clarified and translated into tasks. The tasks must be suitable for assignment to available resources (staff). Second, staff must be chosen based on their skills, experience, and availability. Tasks are planned with reference to the person being assigned. Third, ‘briefs’ are prepared which provide clear instructions for the assigned task. The fourth step takes place during execution. Progress must be monitored and controlled. Integral to successful delegating is ‘intervention’. If something is going wrong it is best to find out early. Finally, results are judged. If everything went well, everyone should be praised. If there were problems, what were they? How will they be prevented in the future? Whether the task was completed successfully or not, a record is kept to help management keep track of what was done, by whom, and how well. Delegating Caveats There a few rules of thumb to keep in mind with regards to delegating. If you cannot trust someone to do a job well then you cannot delegate tasks to that person. You must either work to develop trust, by helping that person to develop his or her skills, or not retain the person. If you cannot delegate effectively to someone, that person becomes a drain on your resources, not an addition to them. Do not over manage. Give delegates space. Micromanaging, watching what everyone does all the time, kills initiative. You might as well do it yourself if you can not back off and let the dele- gate work. Expect excellence from others. Anything less is an insult. Delegation works best in an open environment. Let delegates know they can, and should, ask questions. Delegation is all about communication. Effective delegating requires open, clear communications. Make yourself available to your staff. Try to catch problems early. Never criti- cize – focus on fixes. Tasks to Retain • Leadership • Reward – salaries and bonuses • Control – ensuring that monitoring is effective • Personnel issues – conduct and discipline • Strategic planning – thinking ahead • Information flow – effective communications • Performance – assessing outcomes Not everything can, or should, be delegated. Great managers, however, retain only strategic tasks. Lower level tasks should be passed on. Anything involving strategic planning, crises, or Copyright ©2005 Global Knowledge Network, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 5
  6. sensitive issues must be retained. The key to brilliant management is making sure that these are the only types of tasks that you are performing yourself. Be Systematic Effective delegation starts with systems. Develop a structure and stick to it. For complex projects involving several people, draw up plans. Work with the people involved to identify the tasks for which everyone is responsible. Post the plan and refer to it often. Part of delegating is answering questions. Make yourself available. Do not let uncertainties linger. Sample Task Planning Guide Title: Prepared by: For: Date: CC: Purpose/Aim: Deliverable: Level of authority: Subordinates: Methods: Timeline: Milestones: Resources: Budget: Reporting: Risks: Escalation: Twenty minutes of preparation will save hours of your time and that of others. Answering the questions asked by the outline, creates a clear picture of an assignment for both management and delegate. Task outlines serve as both a formal record and as the basis for instructions given verbally and in writing to the person assigned. They encourage the asking of questions early in the process. Single-point Accountability Break down tasks into deliverables allocated to named individuals. Try to avoid overlapping responsibilities. Managing delegated tasks is easier if overlapping responsibility is avoided. The more directly and clearly a single person can be made accountable for the delivery of results, the more own- ership they will take of the task. The more diffuse the responsibility, the less likely individuals are to ‘take charge’. Copyright ©2005 Global Knowledge Network, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 6
  7. With single point accountability, if there is a problem there can be no confusion about who is responsible. Develop a reporting structure that creates a hierarchy of accountability. Everyone does not have to report to you. In fact, if you make sure they do not, your job will be propor- tionately easier as a result. Monitoring Progress The degree of monitoring, feedback, and control that is required to manage delegated tasks depends on the manager ’s comfort level with the persons given responsibility. The rule of thumb is to start with hands on control (close monitoring) and quickly move to hands off. Control as little as the situation will allow. Give guidance and instruction and then give the ben- efit of doubt. Encourage initiative in others by showing that you trust their judgment. Check back frequently with delegates. Make sure they have the information and resources needed to be successful. Soon after initiation, check that the delegate still feels qualified, equipped, and prepared. In time, delegates can be expected to ask for what is needed, but new delegates need to learn when and how to do so. Encourage them to speak up. A subtle but effective form of monitoring is using milestones. Create a series of small, interim deliverables that serve as checks and balances on the progress of a larger task. These mile- stones provide a self-regulating form of monitoring when used as the basis for progress reports. Figure 1.1: Monitoring effort Forewarned is forearmed: be aware of the variations in how people approach assignments. There is tremendous variety in working ‘styles’. Some can be the cause of considerable grief for unwary managers. Copyright ©2005 Global Knowledge Network, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 7
  8. In the perfect world a task would be undertaken as soon as it was assigned (optimum curve). There would be a rapid rise in effort and then it would level off and remain fairly even through- out the majority of the execution phase. As a manager, this is how you would like people to approach tasks. In reality, most tasks are started late. The average person will not start a task immediately. When the completion date is still far off, other activities seem more pressing. They eventually do start and in order to complete on time, will need to provide an extra effort near completion time. Good employees will still get things done on time. As a manager, this type of work habit can cause some discomfort because of the ‘late start’. Then there is the procrastinator. They begin so late that an enormous effort is required in order to finish on time. Successful procrastinator employees will still get tasks done on time, but there may be sleepless nights en route. The student syndrome is the worst case scenario. These people start so late that it is virtually impossible to complete on time, despite heroic last minute efforts. The way someone approaches a task, their working style, is very difficult, if not impossible, to change. Managers must learn to work with people who employ all the different styles. You can either wait – and hope a procrastinator delivers on time – or micromanage the effort. Neither choice is pleasant. The alternative, and best approach, is to give this type of worker a lot of tiny tasks with short delivery times. A procrastinator may start late on each one, but none of the individual delays will be critical and the overall (big picture) task will be accomplished close to the deadline. Don’t fight working styles – manage them. Risk Delegating has inherent risks. Will the tasks be done properly, on time, and within budget? Concern over risks is what prevents some managers from becoming effective delegators (and therefore good managers). The irony is that the even when you do not delegate a task, the risk of it being completed late or over budget remains. By not delegating a task the only thing you do is narrow the field of people attempting to get it completed. Manage by Exception When it comes to delegating; get organized, develop a structure, establish monitoring systems, keep your door open, and then concentrate management effort on exceptions. Watch for early warning signs of anything going off track. Make sure that the bad news is getting to you. When it does, focus efforts on fixes. Get prob- lem assignments back in line as soon as possible. The best way to ensure that you are hear- ing both the good and bad developments is to treat both with respect. Do not dwell on blame; concentrate on fixes. Recognize success and help everyone to share in it. Copyright ©2005 Global Knowledge Network, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 8
  9. Document Risk Risk needs to be managed, just like a budget. A risk register should be developed for tasks with significant potential for failure. A risk register is a list, in order of importance, of the areas of significant risk for a given task. Risks can be staff related, such as absenteeism, or technical, such as the late delivery of criti- cal components. Anything that might affect successful delivery is a risk. Managers are ultimately accountable for completion of tasks. They therefore need to recognize and manage the risks associated with tasks. Anything that might prevent success (these would be called risks) needs to be discussed actively and regularly. Speak openly of concerns to delegates. Let them know what you are worried about and what requires particular attention. Monitor areas of significant uncertainty closely. Mitigation and contingency plans should be developed for the most serious risks. Institute regular progress measures (milestones). The greater the level of risk inherent in an assignment, the more frequently progress reports should be submitted. You cannot react if you are not informed. Be Positive in Your Feedback Everyone wants and needs feedback. If mediocre staff members are to be developed into great staff, they need to receive coaching. In the workplace, coaching is feedback. Keep it pos- itive. Make it constructive. Focus on what went right and how the bad parts should be done the next time. Arrange performance reviews at roadblocks and at completion. Analyze and report honestly what has gone well and what has gone badly. Gaining from experience requires that you (and they) know if the experience was good or bad. Discuss and digest. Communicate. Take feedback seriously. Know what you are going to say and why. Everyone will be better for it. Your job will get progressively easier as those around you become ‘better’ employees. The Critical Last Steps – Praise and Reward Pride in achievement is a prime motivator. Never take even satisfactory performance for grant- ed. Failure to praise (a lack of feedback) undermines confidence. Silence is not golden; it is lead. Offer praise personally, alone and in public, and by hand written letter. Recognize and reward exceptional effort in an exceptional way. Motivation and delegation go hand in hand. Be sure to use every motivational tool available before, during, and after assignments. Start with positive feedback. Copyright ©2005 Global Knowledge Network, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 9
  10. Recognize and reward every effort. Never take anything for granted. Thanks and encourage- ment are prime motivators and they should be used often. Conclusion The path towards brilliant management starts by recognizing that delegation is a two-part process. Both the giver and receiver need practice and experience in order to achieve consis- tent results. Successful managers nurture and develop staff members who, in turn, make managing easier. Delegating both liberates and motivates staff and management. Everyone benefits from delegation. Delegate or suffocate. You must either learn to work through others or wallow in a sea of jun- ior-level work. Learn More Learn more about how you can improve productivity, enhance efficiency, and sharpen your competitive edge. Check out the following Global Knowledge courses: Business Skills for IT Professionals Communication and Negotiation Skills Management and Leadership Skills for New Managers People Skills for Project Managers For more information or to register, visit or call 1-800-COURSES to speak with a sales representative. Our courses and enhanced, hands-on labs offer practical skills and tips that you can immedi- ately put to use. Our expert instructors draw upon their experiences to help you understand key concepts and how to apply them to your specific work situation. Choose from our more than 700 courses, delivered through Classrooms, e-Learning, and On-site sessions, to meet your IT and professional skills training needs. About the Author Brian Denis Egan is an instructor for Global Knowledge. He is also a partner in the firm of Briny Deep Consulting, a management consultancy, and is the principal shareholder and President of the Book Box Company, a world leader in the manufacture and distribution of recycled book giftware. As a management consultant Brian provides strategic analysis and training services to busi- nesses that are investing in information technologies. Copyright ©2005 Global Knowledge Network, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 10
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