Delegation is an important management skill. But getting it right is not as simple as it seems. According to research by London Business School professor, John Hunt, only 30% of professionals are able to delegate, of which only 1% are confident of their delegation skills. Some refrain from it because they find it difficult, and others because they don’t get desired results.
What happens when you delegate well? You develop and motivate successors, enable others to build more skills, and refine your own tasks and priorities. Ineffective delegation, on the other hand, frustrates people, de-motivates, confuses, leads to incomplete tasks, and creates dependencies inside organizations.
How then can you get this vital skill right? Here are a few aspects to consider.
Have clarity in identifying and assigning tasks. Be definite about the task, and the reasons for delegating it. This way, the person delegated to can gain clarity and about what is to be done, how, and the purpose of the task. Having all the necessary information boosts understanding and helps in efficient execution.
Spot the right people. Choose people with the required skills and capability to complete the task. Ensure the person knows that he/ she is accountable. At Apple, Steve Jobs was known for the concept of Directly Responsible Individual or DRI, an idea still practiced at the company. An Apple meeting includes an action list and a DRI who must ensure the task is accomplished. This research study shows that practices like the DRI help people feel more capable, and be more accountable.
Provide accurate training. In his book ‘The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking’ entrepreneur Eli Broad explains, “The trick to delegating is to make sure your employees share your priorities.” How do you do that? Proper training, which includes technical guidance and emphasizing how the employees’ work contributes to the organization, will ensure this.
State expectations. Avoid ambiguity and ineffectiveness by having well-defined and workable plans that clearly state expectations. The person delegated to then needs to execute the task keeping in mind the expectations, with the least amount of intervention. No room for unwelcome surprises there!
Give authority, control, and responsibility. Allow people to question, take decisions, and own the related responsibility. Captain David Marquet of USS Santa Fe submarine was used to handing down instructions to his crew, who followed it without questioning. One day, the crew tried to follow an instruction, which was actually impossible. Marquet realized he had failed in delegating and had only created followers. Delegation is meaningful when employees are fully engaged in the task. This happens when they are given authority and control, which leads to their growth.
As with most other aspects of our life, delegation requires constant practice. If done and sustained with care, it becomes a system that’s part of the organizational culture. Now that you know what makes effective delegation possible, why not try it out?