“If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.”
– John C. Maxwell, American author
Dear Readers, what do think of the case of the laisez-faire leadership style of the branch manager in last week’s case study? Have you encountered one before? Of course, that was an extreme case but delegation as we described it last week is a skill which when acquired, results in a less stressful work environment. Do the familiar sayings I quoted last week also sound familiar? Some really sounded silly but it’s true. Some may not be said in the open, but in their minds, it is so.
Last week, we looked at the reasons for delegation, what to delegate and when to delegate.
How to delegate
Now that you have identified why you have to delegate, what to delegate and when, lets see how we can do it well to adapt to our situations. Hear are a few things to take note of during your first delegation assignment.
- What are the time lines attached to this function?
- Will there be sufficient time to re-do the assignment when mistakes are encountered?
- What are the consequences when it is not completed on time?
If the above answers are not positive, then you would have to wait and do it yourself or do it with your deputy as he or she prepares for the next properly delegated assignment. If positive, then delegation starts. The following tips are helpful:
- Clear Expectations: These should be specific, clear, and complete, indicating the task, goals, responsibilities, and the constraints. Please let all those whom your deputy would be working with, be made aware of the new delegated responsibility. Assume specific reports are now delegated, the subordinates of the deputy would be expected to send their inputs to the new assignee.
- Provide the Requisite Resources: For a freshly delegated function, your deputy needs all the resources required. Perhaps you have been making do with the minimum, but this is the time you need to follow up on outstanding inputs to make the work easier…..Or you can’t be bothered and say to yourself “if I have been coping under the pressure, why cant she or he?” No, that’s not the way. Don’t forget that you are still responsible. Be available and provide all the requisite information needed for a successfully delegated assignment. Dont be afraid that your direct report is going to usurp your position. In reality, he or she should even submit a better report because you have successfully trained him or her. Do you know the final outcome? Promotion for you to do other more responsible assignments and be proud of it!
- Get Out of the Way, but not too far away! This position is not easy. Don’t hover around too much. Do not micro-manage. Just do it once a while and ask how the delegated activity is going on. If you have really trained the person, your heart should not be in your mouth. If your deputies bring problems to you, they must also bring proposed solutions for discussion. Assume you are a manager, and decide to make your Account Manager a leader of a sales drive in the neighbourhood, you have to set the pace by discussing the expectations and initial modalities, giving him leads and deadlines. During the assignment, you can ask him to give you an interim plan before the set off, and monitor and advise, but allow the team to bring new ideas and guide them occasionally, without being the team leader. For such an assignment, allow some creativity from them. Don’t become the person who solves their problems or you will end up taking on their work. Your way is not necessarily the only or even the best way!
Ø Keeping Control: Please ensure that your deputy knows the reason why he or she was chosen for the job, and agree a schedule for checking-in with progress updates. Also ensure that he or she knows that you want to know if any problems occur, and that you are available for any questions or guidance needed as the work progresses.
- Maintain accountability: It should be clear that your direct report has the responsibility for seeing the job well done. But remember that the ultimate accountability remains with you. In summary, stay involved but let your employee lead the way.
Reviewing the delegated assignment :
- When delegated work is delivered back to you, set aside enough time to review it thoroughly. If possible, only accept good quality, fully-complete work. If you accept work you are not satisfied with, your team member does not learn to do the job properly. Worse than this, you accept a whole new tranche of work that you will probably need to complete yourself. Not only does this overload you, it means that you don’t have the time to do your own job properly.
When good work is returned to you, make sure to both recognize and reward the effort. As a leader, you should get in the practice of complimenting members of your team every time you are impressed by what they have done. This effort on your part will go a long way toward building team member’s self-confidence and efficiency, both of which will be improved on the next delegated task; hence, you both win. Once you’ve started delegating more, pay attention to the results, and learn from your mistakes.
Characteristics of Managers who are Afraid to delegate
Let us look for some characteristics of managers who are afraid of their deputies:
- Having a complex of themselves because they feel that the deputy has more clout on the job and can easily fill up the position.
- Not briefing subordinates about new developments discussed at management meetings which have a direct impact on their functions.
- Not comfortable with assigning job descriptions to staff.
- Not comfortable with new ideas brought up by the deputy or other staff.
- “Breathing down the neck” of the deputy.
- Not giving credit for ideas originated by the deputy
- Not comfortable when certain reports have to be co-signed with deputy.
- Discrediting deputy or subordinates to higher authorities.
Whenever you see yourself showing these characteristics, just hold it and ask yourself a few questions:
– “ Will I always remain in this position?
-”Don’t I want to climb up the ladder for something bigger?
– “ If I fall sick today, who will be asked to fill in the position?
– “If I go on leave, who will take over?
– “Why am I not comfortable with the ideas that the deputy”?
Creating a win-win situation
Of course there are some deputies who are far too ambitious and are always lurking around the corner, waiting for you to make a mistake and usurp your powers. The problem is not hiding things from them, but creating an opportunity for an open door policy to discuss issues affecting the department. When handled tactfully, you will be surprised that this same person will jump at that opportunity and give you indications and possible causes of the problems being faced in the department, which you had no idea about. Don’t forget they are closer to the staff and can sometimes become their mentors. You can effectively get your deputy to “break his back”, working tirelessly for you, in the long run. However don’t forget to share the credit with him or her.
My final thoughts
Delegating supports your own career. It frees you up to spend time developing the skills and experience you will need for your own career path, and you gain credibility as a great manager. Requiring people to seek solutions is one of the most powerful development tools you have. If you don’t delegate, take risks, trust your direct reports, you are – AT BEST – a good manager.
I will end with a reminder that change is absolutely something that must be considered. Quoting my favorite source, Albert Einstein: “Insanity – Doing the same things over and over, expecting different results.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of two books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story”. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.