Delegation mistakes managers make

The task of a competent manager is not to do all the work on his own but to smartly deliver within the given parameters of budget and timelines

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The task of a competent manager is not to do all the work on his own but to smartly deliver within the given parameters of budget and timelines. This is where delegation comes in.

But an overwhelming number of managers get this wrong, leading to poor output and increasing stress.

Too many leaders ponder:”What should I delegate?” That’s where they go wrong in the first place. The right approach should be, “What is it that I can’t delegate?” I think that except for projects that are sensitive and absolutely confidential or the ones that deal with long-term objectives of the organisation, most of the tasks with due diligence can be effectively delegated.

Also, if they can deliver a task better than you or if a task is more time and cost-effective if they handle it instead of you, go right ahead and delegate it.

The next pitfall with many a managers is they delegate tasks, which they are not comfortable doing themselves. This is an absolute no-no. Instead, the question to be asked by the managers should be, “What are my people good at?”

You should hand over those tasks to your team that stop you from reaching your full potential or ones for which you are over- or under specialised. Ensure that the tasks are suitable to be delegated and handed to the appropriate individual.

Poor delegation may boomerang and can result as a morale buster for the team. It may even lead to developing bad blood within the team. Be honest about your reasons for delegating a task.

An important question to answer before you delegate a responsibility or a task to an individual or team is, “What’s in it for them?” Delegation is about them, not you. Delegate responsibilities that people will aspire to handle, or areas that you want them to develop.

Another trap that managers fall into is of procrastinating assigning tasks because they are unsure if their subordinates can deliver as effectively as they can. Delegation does not mean losing control over the task. It means showing respect for the talent others can bring to the table.

However, you can get around this issue by delegating as per your subordinates’ strengths; don’t set them up to fail. Even if you have minor reservations or doubts, still consider delegating. This is a good opportunity to start building independence.

As a manager you already have a full plate. Get realistic, others don’t have to do things as good as you. They just have to be good enough. If they have passion, then even being ‘good enough’ will take them to next levels of performance. Understand that mentoring is a critical component of the delegation process.

Some managers try to scheme their way into delegating tasks. In the process to make the other accept a task, they make it sound simple and without much of work. They forget that in doing so they undermine the importance of the task and the person who has to handle it.

A better approach is to let the person understand the importance of a task, the responsibility it brings and the long-term consequences it comes with. Once they are clear about the task, the ownership comes on its own.

Clarity of vision is one factor that never fails to bring the better out of your team. Begin with the end in mind. Intelligent managers always share the vision before they share the tasks. It automatically fires the brain to perform better because tasks without the vision are unexciting and cumbersome.

The idea is to make people feel that they are contributing to the success of the organisation rather than standing on the periphery.

Always state the required outcomes and results at the outset. Explain what must be achieved, what the measurements will be, and clarify how you intend to decide that the job was successfully done. Recheck understanding by asking them to explain what they understood in their words. Look for reassurance that the task can be done.

Address any gaps and reinforce your belief in the individuals. They need to know you trust them. Focus on results. Concern yourself with what is accomplished, rather than detailing how the work should be done: your way is not necessarily the only or even the best way.

Allow them to use their own methods and processes. This facilitates success and trust. Empowerment is also about letting go so others can get going. Express the confidence in their abilities to live up to the expectations and yet give them space to make some mistakes. Keep the communication process open to provide inputs, support and feedback.

You must absorb the consequences of failure, create an environment where failure is an opportunity to learn and grow and pass on the credit for success.

Do not micro-manage. At the same time, do not altogether abdicate control. For effective delegation, it is of paramount importance to find the balance between giving enough space for the people to use their abilities to the best effect and grow, and monitoring and supporting to ensure the work is done correctly and effectively.

Always have enough time to review the delegated work when it comes back to you. As a thumb rule, do not accept half-finished jobs as this would result in your team never learning to deliver the job properly and taking ownership. Worse, this will land you in a position where you have to clean the mess and add to your already full plate.

As an effective manager, it is important on your part to get in the habit of complimenting and sharing credit if you are satisfied by what they have done. This effort on your part will go a long way in winning their trust.

Effective delegation involves achieving the desired results, managing the demanding deadlines, empowering and equipping the team, developing a second line of go-getters, and efficiently multi-tasking.

Most of all, it creates the most expensive commodity for yourself—time—time for planning, strategising, making decisions and sharpening the saw. Remember, though, that you can delegate tasks and vision but not your responsibility.

Ultimately, the responsibility of getting work done remains with the manager. If a task fails, you cannot point fingers at anyone. You delegated. It was your call. You may have picked the wrong person for the job. The responsibility for non-performance remains at the top, as the buck always stops at the leader.

Go all out and learn the vital science that goes into delegation. And keep applying the principles, for, no manager has been perpetually successful without excelling in the art of delegation.

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Rajesh Shukla
Rajesh Shukla is an eminent corporate trainer, career coach, motivational speaker & writer. He has been a performance coach to hundreds of professionals. As Founder of Korporate Karma, he has embarked onto a journey of a movement of self effectiveness.


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