One of the skills that every manager must master is delegation. It's the art of assigning and entrusting another person with a task or responsibility. The reason I call it an art is because it's not as simple as saying "Do this." It takes an understanding of the task and the person being asked to complete it.
Delegation also involves trust. The individual doing the delegating must trust that the person being given the task can do the job. And the person being assigned the task must feel confident that they are not being set up to fail.
The skill of delegation is important because:
- It frees up time for the manager to do other things. (We'll call the person assigning the task "manager", even though they aren't the only people who delegate.) Delegation can be about working to individual strengths, so the manager can assign tasks to someone on their team that has a particular strength. The manager may also need to manage their own time to be able to complete other projects. The manager cannot take on those other projects if they are unable to delegate.
- The person receiving the task (we'll call them the employee), is getting the opportunity to take on additional responsibility and learn new skills. Being able to take on additional tasks can offer employees flexibility because the manager doesn't monitor their work as closely. Managers know the employee will get the job done. It can also offer some excitement and break up the monotony. Beyond that, it's an opportunity for employees to do work that will contribute to their career development.
Delegation isn't a standalone skill. It works with other activities such as performance management. The goal of performance management is to support the goals and objectives of the organization. Therefore, effective delegation involves assigning tasks that will help the organization accomplish its goals and objectives. That includes the strategic goal of developing future talent.
Here are four examples of how managers can use performance management best practices when delegating:
1. One-on-one meetings
Managers should always follow up with an employee after delegating a task. This is an opportunity to discuss what went well and what could be done differently. Employee feedback is valuable. They are seeing this task with a fresh set of eyes and could offer suggestions that would make the work easier for the organization.
2. Goal setting
During goal setting exercises, managers should tell employees that there are tasks they would like to delegate. The employee might need some training or prerequisites before being able to assume responsibility. This is a way to get their buy-in and start preparing them for that moment.
3. Performance reviews
Often the tasks we delegate to others aren't a part of their job description. Recognize and reward employees who have enthusiastically accepted delegated activities. Let them know how their actions have helped their career, the department and the organization. Remember that delegation is not a synonym for dumping on an employee.
4. Career development
At some point, employees need to learn the skill of delegation as well. The manager's role isn't to simply delegate to others but to teach others how to successfully delegate. This development needs to be ingrained into the company culture and can come from an employee's direct supervisor as well as coaches and mentors.
You can be a great delegator!
Delegation isn't easy, but managers have plenty of opportunities to practice and engage employees in the process. By using activities that already exist in the performance management process, managers can delegate easier and recognize employees more frequently. This strengthens the company culture and builds employee engagement.