How Well Do You Delegate?

Discover Ways to Achieve More

Reduce stress by delegating effectively..

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Business organizations and teams exist for one reason only: to do jobs that are too large, too complex or too fast-changing for any one individual to do on his or her own.

So why do so many managers within these organizations still try to do everything themselves?

Assigning work to others is an integral part of getting things done efficiently, however many people feel uncomfortable with delegating.

Do you ever say things like these to yourself?

"I'll do the best job here, so I'll do it myself."

"He'll resent being asked, thinking I should do the work myself."

"It's a boring job, so I'll 'lead by example' and do it myself."

"It'll be quicker if I do the job myself."

These are all common reactions to thinking about delegation. However, when you don't delegate you risk ending up with too much work, not enough time, and lots of undue stress. The belief that you can do it better and faster with fewer mistakes leads to a vicious cycle of too little time and too much to do.

But on the other hand, when you delegate, you risk not having the job done properly.

So where do you instinctively find the balance? Do you choose not to delegate, and end up stressed-out and exhausted, or do you delegate, and risk errors and some frustration as a way of getting out of the not-enough-time-to do-anything-properly slump?

Take this short quiz to explore how well you currently delegate. Your answers will show you if you need to improve. If you do, we'll direct you to some great resources that will help you.

How Good is Your Delegation?

Use the online test below, and click the 'Calculate my total' button at the foot of the test.

Instructions:

For each statement, click the button in the column that best describes you. Please answer questions as you actually are (rather than how you think you should be), and don't worry if some questions seem to score in the 'wrong direction'. When you are finished, please click the 'Calculate My Total' button at the bottom of the test.

   12 Statements to Answer

Not
at All
Rarely Some
times
Often Very
Often
1 I make a point of explaining clearly what needs to be done.
2 I delegate things at the last minute.
3 I delegate larger projects to teams of people, giving them appropriate responsibility and clearly defining their authority for decision-making.
4 I provide directions at the start of the project and wait for expected results at the agreed end-point.
5 If a task is directly related to my own objectives and priorities, I choose not to delegate it.
6 I talk openly about consequences of missing deadlines and expectations.
7 I delegate to anyone in the organization I figure could do the work.
8 I use delegation as a mean of developing others' skills.
9 I delegate work that is critical to the success of a project.
10 I expect delegates to come to me with solutions to problems they encounter, instead of simply asking for more instructions.
11 I delegate work that is confidential and sensitive in nature as well as other work.
12 I consider how important employee involvement and buy-in are to the projects and tasks that I delegate.
Calculate My Total
Total = 0

Score Interpretation

Score Comment
44-60 Excellent! You delegate under the right circumstances – and to the right people. You understand that delegating requires enough time and support from you so that everyone can be successful. You know that delegation is a key part of empowerment, and your team is stronger because of it. (Read below for more.)
28-43 You're making progress. You understand the principles of delegating. However, you like to occasionally cut corners and follow the easy path. Be more proactive in your delegation strategy, and remember how important it is to involve staff and provide them with enough time and support to succeed. The resources below can help you improve your delegation skills and your confidence.
12-27 Your delegation skills need work. You delegate as a last resort, rather than as a useful tool for improving your staff's skills and getting work done efficiently. Look at the resources below to develop a successful delegation plan.

What and When to Delegate

(Questions 2, 5, 9, 11)

When you consider delegating, start by deciding what you can delegate and when. Know when you should ask your staff to perform certain tasks and make decisions. Once you know which tasks are appropriate to delegate, it's much easier to decide to whom – and how – to delegate.

If you try to delegate work that's inappropriate or should be done by you, you'll probably fail – despite your best planning and support. You might want to ask your strongest team member to prepare a presentation for you, but if the words and thoughts aren't yours, chances are the speech won't connect with the audience. Likewise, if you need a report completed for your meeting in two hours, it may be inefficient to take half an hour to explain to someone else what needs to be done. In that case, doing it yourself will likely save you time and stress.

Consider these points when you decide whether delegating is appropriate:

  • Time Do you have enough time to delegate? It takes money to make money, and it also takes time to save time. You must be able to give sufficient instruction and support as necessary. And you also need to give yourself enough time to make corrections if needed. (If you don't have time, and for many this is a natural objection, you need to work out how to find that time. See our time management section for more on this.)
  • Availability Is someone available to do the task? You must have people with the necessary skills and expertise to complete the job successfully. Often, the best tasks to delegate are those for which your staff members have more expertise or information than you do. If they're closer to certain day-to-day activities, they may well perform better and faster than you could.
  • Criticality Is the work critical to the success of the project or the organization? High profile tasks that have a low tolerance for mistakes are often better done yourself. For instance, responsibilities that have to do with strategic initiatives, recruitment of new team members, confidential information or sensitive customer relationships are not typically delegation material. If needed, delegate even more of your lower level work to make sure you have time to do a superb job of the vital work.

For more information on what to delegate, see our article on Successful
Delegation
 .

To Whom to Delegate

(Questions 3, 7, 8, 12)

Delegating work to a person or team takes thought and consideration. If you delegate to the wrong person, you may spend too much time instructing and supporting the work. If you delegate too much to one person, you risk incomplete results, and an unhappy, over-stressed individual.

Think about these issues when deciding to whom you should delegate:

  • Organizational structure Delegate to people who report to you. If you delegate to another manager's staff, you put everyone in a difficult position. The manager is accountable for the staff person's overall work, yet the person is accountable to you for the individual task. Following the chain of command is a better solution. If you need to go outside your team, include the other person's manager, and give that manager some responsibility (and credit) for the outcome. Open communication is important when delegating across functional areas or through different levels of an organization.
  • Staff buy-in Consider how committed you need your staff to be. Gaining their cooperation and support in the delegating decision can be critical to success. They'll feel more involved and more committed to the results. (The Vroom-Yetton-Jago decision model   helps you think about when this is and isn't appropriate.)
  • Individual vs team Some tasks can be easily completed by one person. But when you delegate bigger pieces of work, think about how many people should be involved and what skills you need.

Have a look at our article on Task Allocation   for more information on who best to delegate work to.

How to Delegate

(Questions 1, 4, 6, 10)

A positive outcome can depend on how you actually hand over the task. You want to keep morale high and ensure that your team readily accepts assignments from you, that work is completed to expectations, and that you have more time for your own work. Effective delegation requires crystal clear communication so that people know precisely what is expected of them. It also requires letting go.

Here are some key things to consider:

  • Clarify your expectations Tell the person to whom you are delegating what you need accomplished and why it's important. When he or she knows the desired results, it's much easier to see the "big picture" and work accordingly. If possible, connect the task to organizational goals.
  • Establish checkpoints Plan how you're going to ensure the work is being completed according to plan by establishing checkpoints at the end of project stages. This doesn't mean asking, "How's it going?" every hour – that would be oppressive. Manage the risk of mistakes occurring by being proactive and staying in the loop at key points within the project.
  • Delegate the results, not the process Focus on the end result and, unless the person to whom you're delegating is inexperienced, allow him or her to determine how best to achieve it. If you dictate exactly what to do, when to do it, and how to do it, you limit the learning potential, and you risk not taking proper advantage of the person's experience.
  • Define your role Explain how much support you'll provide. Let the person know whether to wait for your instructions or make independent recommendations and decisions. Often, the more authority you give, the better the end result will be however, use your discretion, depending on the task and the individual. Make sure the person understands whether independent initiative is mandatory.
  • Talk about consequences If you allow people to have authority over their work, inform them of the consequences of both successful and unsuccessful results. What rewards can they expect if they do a great job? What will happen if they don't achieve the expected results?

Read our articles on Avoiding Micromanagement   and The Delegation
Dilemma
  for even more ideas on how to delegate effectively for maximum payoffs.

Our Bite-Sized Training: Delegation lesson is a great place to practice your delegation skills and apply them to your work right now. It walk you through deciding what tasks you can delegate, to whom you should delegate, and how to go about it.

Tip:
Once you get used to delegating and your confidence builds, you can use proactive delegation as an empowerment tool. Plan to delegate larger projects and more decisions.

Where appropriate, include your team in delegation decisions. Allow people to have a say in what tasks they want to take on. This increases their motivation, empowers them, and reinforces their value to the overall team.

As part of a training and development program you can encourage your team to discuss assignments and even negotiate the amount and type of work they want to do. For more ideas on this, see our Bite-Sized Scenario Training: Empowerment and Delegation session.

Key Points

Delegation doesn't come naturally to most of us, and we can often think it's easier and safer to do everything ourselves. Unfortunately, this approach often leads to more stress and less time to work on our priorities.

Delegation is a time management strategy that you must practice. You can't do everything – so decide what you must do yourself and what you can delegate to others. When you learn to delegate effectively, you'll be rewarded with more time and a more empowered and satisfied staff. That's a win-win!

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Click here for more, subscribe to our free newsletter, or become a member for just $1.

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