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Delegation: Double your Capacity

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


Management is not about doing things: it is about getting things done. So a large part of your responsibility is allocating work among your team and developing people to take on more demanding challenges. Delegation – getting other people to do aspects of your work – is a part both of effective working and of developing people.

Whilst there are lots of poor reasons for delegating – like off-loading unpleasant tasks, or abdicating responsibility – there are many positive benefits to you, to your team, and to your organisation.

Exercise 1: The Reasons to Delegate?

Make a list of all of the good reasons to delegate. To help you, consider the question from three perspectives:

  1. How can you benefit?
  2. How can your team members benefit?
  3. How can your organisation benefit?

Failure to delegate

The problem is that many managers constantly find excuses for not delegating; even when they know they ought to for many of the reasons you have probably identified. What are yours?

Exercise 2: Excuses for Not Delegating

Here are some excuses I commonly encounter. For each of these, how would you counter the excuse?

  • “I’d be better off doing it myself”
  • “I don’t want to overload my staff”
  • “I don’t have the time to delegate”
  • “I know exactly how I want it done”
  • “If I ask him/her to do it, he/she will be nagging me every five minutes”

How to Delegate

Some people use these excuses simply because they don’t feel comfortable with the process of delegation. Indeed, many guides either make it seem like a big deal, or they miss out an important aspect of the process, leaving people wondering why it fails. So let’s look at the basic delegation process.

Delegation

Step 1. Matching

Understand the task, its level of importance and urgency, and the risks associated with it. Then consider the people available to you, and their abilities, strengths, preferences, and their existing commitments. Also think about their development routes. Now match the task to the most suitable person.

Step 2. Briefing

Brief effectively. Taking time to do this properly is an investment that will result in fewer interruptions, a greater chance of innovation and excellence, and a reduced chance of mistakes and failures.

Step 3. Commitment

After you have briefed and answered any questions, ask if they:

  • Understand the task required
  • Can carry out the task required – do they have the ability and availability?
  • Believe the resources and time allocated are sufficient for the task required

Then ask for their commitment to do the task required. In return, offer your commitment to support and monitor the process.

Step 4. Monitoring

An important part of risk management and of developing the person you have delegated to is to monitor their performance. Monitor more or less frequently, depending on your level of confidence and certainty, and the level of risk.  Remember: when you delegate a task, you retain responsibility for it.

Step 5. Feedback

When the job is done, offer objective feedback on performance, recognise the work done and contribution made, reward it with thanks and praise, and highlight what the person can learn from their experience.

Further Reading 

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John Adair’s Four-D System

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended correspondence course in management. You can dip into it as you go, or you can follow the course, right from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


Time management is a vital part of your personal effectiveness.  As a manager, you will face greater time challenges than you did as a team member; but you will also have additional resources and greater flexibility in how you use your time.

One of the simplest and most powerful time management approaches is John Adair’s Four-D System.  This is documented in his (now out of print) Handbook of Management and Leadership.

Adair starts with a standard Eisenhower Matrix putting urgency against importance.

Urgent&Important

Adair then identifies starting time management strategy for each class of activities:

  1. Do it now
  2. Delay it until you have some good quality time
  3. Do it quickly
  4. Drop it or Delegate it

Critique

As always, John has identified a powerful model with real practical application.  Yet I can’t help feeling we must modify it a little.  Here are three ways you can make it even more effective still:

Priorities

Although the urgency suggests that box 1 is top priority, this creates a high stress, low sustainability work style.  Prioritise box 2 and you will find yourself planning and preparing ahead of urgency and so find less work falls into box 1.

Drop or delegate… Really?

If it is not worth your time to do it, why is it worth someone else’s time?  Yes it may be important enough for someone else to do it, but don’t just Dump it on someone to avoid an assertive NO.  Indeed, get in the habit of delegating Box 1, 2, and 3 tasks too, to develop the people who work for you.

More Ds…

We’ve already added Dump, but I don’t propose to honour it with emphasis.  But Diminish is a powerful strategy.  Look at the task and ask: ‘do I need to do all of it?’  If you can reduce the work required and still deliver all or most of the value, you will save valuable time.  And there is another D: Decide.  You need to decide which strategy to adopt.  Unless, that is, you Defer your decision.  If you do that as an example of purposive procrastination* it is a sound approach.

Exercise

Make an Eisenhower grid on a whiteboard or on the four panels of a door, or in your notebook.  Use post-it type notes to jot down all the tasks facing you (big for the whiteboard/door or small for your notebook).  Allocate the notes to one of the four quadrants.  If everything is at the top left, re-calibrate your mental scales for importance and urgency.

Further Reading


*Purposive Procrastination: putting something off because there will be a better time to tackle it.  (see The Yes/No Book, p.133)

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