Are you delegating, dumping or micro-managing?

When I facilitate ‘How to delegate effectively’ workshops, something participants need help with early on is their reluctance to delegate. This can show up as self-imposed obstacles that get in the way such as, “I don’t want to overload them”, “I’m not sure they’ll get it right”, “I’m too busy to delegate properly” and of course, “I can do it more quickly myself”. As long as those obstacles are in the way, delegating won’t happen – or at least not effectively.

Are you dumping tasks on people?

‘Dump and run’ as one participant memorably called it – and she’d been on the receiving end – is just that. Drop some work on an unsuspecting employee and leave them to figure out what they’re supposed to do, with little or no support from you. This can happen in tough organisational cultures, where allowing someone to sink or swim is often how it goes. Result? If you’re lucky, the person you’ve dumped on will have a go at the task and might just get it right. If you’re not, they may not do it at all or worse, screw the job up. You then have to help them get it right or take the job back from them. Not good for you or the person dumped on.

Use delegation to get people learning and practising as they take on more tasks. This means you will need to teach them when they tackle something for the first time, guide and support them as they gain proficiency – and back off steadily as they progress.

Are you micro-managing?

Great, you’re getting people involved in doing the work. Not so great if you’re still all over them if they’ve been carrying out this task for a while without any disaster. Remember the job needs to get done right, on time and budget. That might be different to doing the job ‘my way’. Memorable advice from a previous boss: “monitor without meddling”. Other people may take a different approach to you and, so long as they deliver and no-one’s complaining, let them get on with it. Who knows, they just might hit on a better way.

You can step back from teach mode when someone’s taking on tasks successfully and engage in more of a coaching conversation. Use questions such as, “What’s working well / not so well?”, “What have you learned about how this works?”, “What can we do to improve?”, “How can I support you?” to get a dialogue going and listen well to the responses you get.

When delegation is done right, it develops people. Not only that, it makes business sense to have the right people doing the right job. You wouldn’t expect to see the CEO hoovering the carpet – not the best use of their highly-paid time. Equally, you need to focus on the tasks that match and exceed what you’re costing your employer. Delegate work that has a lower price tag and add more demanding tasks to stretch the person and add variety to their work.

You may find this post useful: ‘Tips for virtual delegation’


Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’ and ‘How to be Zoomly at work’





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