Tactically spreading work around can help with time management and team building
IT’S been one year since the congratulations started rolling in; after all, you had been promoted! You were thrilled to be selected for your high-performing, demanding job. It’s the type of job where you experience an adrenalin rush all the time. It’s exciting to be challenged as you resolve one crisis after another.
Yet somehow, your spirit is starting to lag and you are worried the bloom is falling off the rose, so to speak. In fact, you’re becoming seriously concerned there doesn’t seem to be enough time to recover as you jump from one crisis to the next. Your email inbox is always full, deadlines are being missed and staff morale is beginning to slip.
However, you have enough selfawareness to recognize your stress level is inching upward and you are becoming edgy and anxious. You also recognize that your many sleepless nights are wearing you down and you are beginning to feel overwhelmed.
When I hear this type of complaint from a new but inexperienced manager, I will most often find they are taking on too many tasks themselves and are not skilled at delegating to their team members. In fact, they really don’t know how to delegate or are afraid to delegate.
Delegation is a management skill that is absolutely necessary if you intend to be successful at higher levels. Delegation is the ability to effectively assign a task to someone else. It means getting things done through other people. Delegation is all about time management, professional development and the empowerment of your employees.
At the same time, delegation has both process and psychological elements, so it’s much more complex than one thinks. One reason for this is your need to entrust your authority to someone else to get the job done. And entrusting is where delegation inches right up to the fear a new manager might be experiencing.
Some of what a manager might fear is the loss of control, a loss of power, fear of failure or becoming invisible and therefore no longer being needed. Many of these feelings are directly tied to personal insecurity and a lack of self-confidence. And don’t think for a moment employees don’t have qualms about accepting a delegated task. Without proper preparation, an employee may see delegation as simply passing on a task the manager doesn’t like or a tactic to load the employee up with more work. Worse yet, the employee may see they have new responsibilities but with no authority.
So, how does a new manager go about learning and applying the skill of delegation? First of all, understand if you are too busy and unfocused, then 80 per cent of your effort will generate only 20 per cent of the results needed. On the other hand, 80 per cent of all of your results should be achieved with only 20 per cent of your effort. Therefore, you need to learn to delegate as much as possible.
In order to delegate effectively, you also need to understand the various levels of delegation. These include directing an employee to: Follow your instructions precisely; Look into a situation, report back and then you will decide;
Look into a situation and you will decide together with the employee;
Tell you about the situation, what help the employee needs and then both of you will decide;
Analyze the situation, propose options and recommendations; then you as manager can tell them to go ahead or not;
Make a decision and wait for management go-ahead;
Make a decision, go ahead unless management intervenes and says not to;
Make a decision, take action and inform management after the fact;
Make a decision, take action with no reporting required.
Thus, your overall goal as manager is to ensure most of your management time is spent thinking about strategy development rather than doing handson work.
Now that you understand the various levels of delegation, take time to sit down and analyze just where you actually do spend your time. Perhaps do this for a one month period. Analyze your findings for boss-imposed time, which cannot be delegated, versus system-imposed time, which requires you to support peers. Also assess your self-imposed or staffimposed time.
List your activities for the month, estimate the time per activity and then group your time activities into key functional areas. Look for themes and relationships. Identify your routine tasks and name them.
Next, determine the tasks you can eliminate altogether, which tasks only you can do and which tasks that could be done by someone else. Following this analysis, take a look at the employee talent pool and determine how many people you have available to whom to delegate.
The easiest way in which to delegate is to apply what is commonly known as the “4-D approach”. This tactic is as follows: D = drop it Does it need to be done at all? What are the consequences of not doing it? Don’t delegate what you can eliminate. D = delay it Using positive delay saves time D = do it If you can’t drop or delay it and it can’t be delegated, then do it D = delegate it If you don’t drop or delay it but it can be done by someone else, then delegate it
However, delegation is not dumping an activity on one of your employees’ desks. Delegation takes time to set up a plan and a structure and ensure the assignment goes to the right person at the right time. You will need to ensure all delegated tasks are relevant to the individual’s overall job responsibility and skill levels. You will need to plan for sufficient backup and provide support for unseen problems. You will need to help the employee prioritize or ensure there is adequate coverage for their time away from regular duties. You will also need to ensure you give the employee adequate time to do the job, so planning in advance is important.
Finally, be sure to delegate the task objective, but not necessarily the procedure unless it is a standardized approach. Seek out someone with the capability but who also wants to learn and develop. Then set out your performance objectives, step back and let the employee do the job. However, be there when needed and ensure the task is completed and the employee is held accountable.
Learning to delegate is a prized management skill especially if you perceive yourself moving into more senior roles. Keep in mind as well that delegation is an effective tool for time management, team building and professional development.