Sharing the burden
14 February 2005
Are you working too many hours? Having problems meeting deadlines? Too much to do and too little time? Then perhaps you need to delegate more of your work. Good delegation leads to a more efficient and profitable use of your time.
The key to delegation is about asking: "Do I really need to do this myself?" Anything that can be done by someone with a lower or no charge-out rate should be delegated. Delegation is about efficiency and the best interests of the client.
True delegation is not about allocation, nor is it about assigning work with specific instructions on how it should be done. It has nothing to do with abdication - ie handing over complete responsibility and control to a subordinate who is not equipped to do the job properly. If managed correctly, it can prove to be a key motivator. Good delegation means top performers will be attracted to your team in contrast to poor performers, who may be scared off by the extra responsibility.
Delegation is a two-way process and should ideally benefit both the supervisor, in terms of time, energy and quality of results, and the delegatee, in terms of the challenge, the opportunity to learn and the increased responsibility.
Easing people into delegation is an important process. Simply dumping work on them will not be as effective as talking through the tasks that need to be done if you want them to succeed. It is also crucial that they know you value their contribution and recognise delegation as a development tool rather than as a means of absolving responsibility. Using team meetings to discuss what kind of experience and responsibility each person would like can be beneficial and ensures people work together and get the most from being delegated to. In the same way, individuals in the team will be able to learn from each other, pool knowledge and make the firm more efficient.
To help you to delegate successfully and to get the most from the delegation process, here are some guidelines that will ensure efficiency, motivation and best practice:
Ask team members to look into the facts in the file/matter, giving them a chance to become acquainted with the issues. Once they have done this, make sure they also have the benefit of your appraisal of the situation without too much guidance on what the solution should be.
Ask them to make suggestions as to what their solution would be. This gets them thinking and also gives you the chance to understand their thought processes.
Ask them to implement one of their recommendations, but only after you have given approval. It is important to make sure that when moving forward you have set them up for success, not failure.
Ask them to take action on their own, but to report the results immediately. This will give them the confidence and you will still be able to perform damage control if necessary.
Finally, remember to give them complete authority, as this is ultimately what you are working towards. Start with the small things first and, as your confidence in them grows, give them more control. By doing so, you will have nurtured someone whose confidence in their own abilities will grow with the knowledge of your guidance. This should give you more of a chance to spend time on other essential activities such as golf, lunches and strategy meetings.
Charles Boyle is a managing consultant and head of legal and professional services at recruitment and HR consultancy Hudson