Management Skills: The Art of Delegation

management skills

Delegation: What’s stopping you?

Would you agree with me that one of the key management skills is learning how to delegate? I’ve written a lot about delegation including; how to get started and how to have the delegation discussion. In this blog I’m going to focus on a sub-set of those management skills: how to overcome your reluctance to delegate. Why? Because so many managers tell me they want to delegate more – but they can’t. When I work with these managers to find out what’s stopping them I see some key themes. If you’re the kind of manager who wants to delegate more, but something’s stopping you, these ‘overcoming your reluctance to delegate’ management skills might just help!


Management Skills #1: Get clear on the importance of delegation

It’s true that delegating a task often takes time and energy. Clearly you won’t want to invest that time and energy if you don’t see the potential benefits. Here are a couple of questions that might help you get some clarity around the benefits of delegation;


  • Do you want more time in your day to do the things only you can do?


  • Do you want some time to do the work that you know (if only you had the time!) would get you some great results? You know the type of thing – talking to clients, planning, building stronger relationships with your employees, thinking, getting a life


The point is you’ve got to get clear on what’s in it for you. So, what would you do with – say – an extra 60 minutes a day?


Management Skills #2: Get clear on what your (management) job actually is

The rapper Trip Lee has a great line in one of his songs; ‘she say she a Christian, but I can’t tell’. I can think of a number of managers who ‘says he’s a manager, but I can’t tell’! These are the managers who find it almost impossible to give up the ‘technical work’ in order to concentrate on the ‘management work’. Why? Well often these managers don’t feel confident in their management role and maybe don’t feel well trained or skilled enough.


The reality is that your job is to manage – to achieve results through other people. You simply can’t do this effectively if you are spending your time on ‘doing’ rather than ‘managing’.


Management Skills #3: Get clear that not all delegation is developmental for the employee

It would be wonderful if each and every task we delegated met some developmental need and desire of our employees. Sorry, but they just don’t (unless your employee has a deep seated desire to develop their ‘making sure that the printers never run out of paper’ skills).


The reality is that you will (and should) be delegating some tasks that are not developmental. But here’s the thing; all delegation – no matter how uninspiring the task – will benefit the employee. How so? Because you are delegating the task in order to free up the time you need to focus on those ‘great results’ activities I talked about at skill#1.


If you look at the examples I gave (or for more examples of ‘high value’ activities see here) then you will see that ultimately the employee will benefit (more satisfied customers, better planning for the team, better relationships and so on). All you need to do is help the employee see why you are delegating a task and what the benefits will be


Management Skills #4: Get clear that your employee might not do it like you do – and that’s OK

I’m going to guess that, as you’ve made it to manager, that you’re pretty good at the technical side of the job. In fact, you’re probably exceptionally good at it. This can mean that when you delegate a piece of technical work there’s a fair chance that your employee; a) won’t approach the work in the way that you do and b) won’t achieve – at least to begin with – the same level of results that you do. It’s just the way it is


The key question is; can the employee complete, or be trained to complete, the task to the standard required? (I’d suggest you think about using performance objectives to describe ‘the standard required’). If the answer is ‘yes’ then accept that your employee isn’t you and probably won’t do the task in the way you did – then go ahead and delegate anyway


People Management Skills: Delegation Summary

Delegation is an such a key management skill that it’s well worth spending a little time thinking through what might be stopping you – and then working out how you might overcome your reluctance to delegate


Would you like to learn – In just 10 minutes! – some new strategies for how to delegate?


delegationThen why not take a look at my kindle book ‘Learn in Just 10 Minutes…How to Delegate. A step-by-step guide to effective delegation’


‘I would recommend this book to all new managers who want to learn how to delegate and experienced managers who want a quick refresher’ (Nora K)


This book is for managers who want a proven step-by-step guide to effective delegation – and who only have 10 minutes to read it! Check it out on Amazon HERE


2 Responses to Management Skills: The Art of Delegation

  1. Managers fear delegation for GOOD reasons. Fear of: losing sight of the task, slipped deadlines, poor results, needing to step in at the last minute and rescue, difficulty in giving good instructions, the pain of tracking, trouble remembering and following up the right way at the right time…

    Solve those problems, and the fear goes away. And this does it (mine):

    Using Donedesk, I especially love “fuzzy delegation” (or “agile delegation”). Assign it with vague-ish requirements, then invite 1) discussion, and/or 2) exploration and reporting back with proposed solutions. It’s faster, they learn more, and it’s then easy to edit and agree on the final approach together.

  2. joanhenshaw says:

    Hi Kevin
    Thanks for your input!

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