Delegation Conflagrations

By Tom Davidson

Q. What’s the key to good delegation?

A. Delegation is not a difficult skill, but it’s difficult to have the will to do it. You were promoted because you got things done on your own, but as a manager, you now have to teach and orchestrate the work of others. If you don’t delegate often enough or well enough, you will:

  • Get buried in work, so swamped in the details that you are unable to do the job you’re being paid to do.
  • Stifle the development of your team, who learn most of what they need to know from on-the-job experience.
  • Pull your manager down from his/her job to do yours, endearing you to no one.

To keep yourself out of the delegation doldrums, do the following:

What – To determine what to delegate, use this test: If someone else can do it, they probably should.

Who – To choose who should receive the delegation, consider whether it is a simple task or a complex responsibility. If they haven’t done the task, they’re probably not ready for the responsibility.

How – To convey the delegation, tell or ask:

What will you do?
When will you do it?
How will I know it’s on track?
How will I know it was done?
What do you need from me so you can do this?

For a classic reference on the delegation doldrums, read:

Who’s Got the Monkey (Harvard Business Review, November–December 1974)
Mistake #3 – The Fool-It-Yourselfer – in The 8 Greatest Mistakes New Managers Make (Rumford Academy Publishing, 2011).

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