Delegate, Abdicate Or Do Everything Yourself!

Delegate, Abdicate Or Do Everything Yourself!


Management is about performance and being able to get results by directing resources and efforts towards opportunities in the most effective way possible. We do realize that one of the principal resources through which we obtain results is people. The ability, or inability, of a manager to draw results and performance from people is a big factor in determining her overall effectiveness. Her main tool to achieve that is delegation.

Delegation is getting work done through other people. When a manager delegates, she entrusts the performance of a task or a sub-task to someone else most of the time, a subordinate. It is an extension of what you can do by yourself to what you can control.

Delegation multiplies your efforts through the division of duties. It is the foundation of the organizing function and it stems from the fact that people may not be able to do everything in entirely, all by themselves. Delegation involves the assignment to someone else, the power to act and decide. Such authority varies in degree and is derived from the delegation.

In return, such authority requires the acceptance of the responsibilities as well as the accountability for specific results. On the other hand, responsibilities may be accepted but authority may not be given, rendering the process ineffective.

There are many good reasons why a manager needs to be able to delegate well. Obviously, the need for a manager to have more time to focus on more important priorities or opportunities is one good reason. Managers who do not delegate well, end up having to carry the entire burden themselves and therefore will not be effective in doing what a manager is supposed to do – get results from people. Life will inevitably be a lot more hectic and certainly less healthy!

The other reason is the need to develop subordinates. Given a choice, no subordinate really wants to be in the same job for the rest of her life. At the end of the day, most of them (and us) want better career status, higher level of responsibilities and the perks that come with it. Opportunities for career development is one key element that workers of today will look into in deciding if their job is worth sticking to.

High turnover these days is prevalent and certainly a good percentage of it arises from lack of career development and opportunities. People need development; it is no longer a luxury – it is a right and an expectation that organizations have to fulfil.

Delegation of work is one way to enrich the subordinates’ job, increase the scope of their work, enhance their experiences and eventually their promotability. Delegation is therefore one managerial practice where everybody wins – the subordinate gets an opportunity to be developed, her job is enriched or expanded and the manager gets to be able to focus on more important issues.

Despite the fact that it makes good sense to delegate well, many managers don’t. (On the other hand, some overdelegate to the point of abdicating.) Delegation is an important managerial skill – a skill that can be acquired and learnt.

Why Managers Don’t Delegate

Some of the possible situations that give rise to this reluctance to delegate are:

1. “My Subordinate Will Mess It Up”

Some managers may not have the confidence in their subordinates. A manager may realise that ultimately, responsibilities still rest with her, so she feels it may be better to do it herself.

But then it is realistic to expect that subordinates will at times make mistakes with the assignment delegated. Part of developing and growing is making mistakes and learning from them. You yourself must have made some too, in the past. As a manager, you can minimize the incidences by ensuring that proper instructions and guidance are given. You can also minimize the impact of errors by starting with less risky and simpler tasks before delegating assignments that have a critical impact on the organization.

2. “My Boss Expects Me To Do It Myself

This could be more of a perception rather than a fact. Clarifying with the boss becomes important if the need to delegate is high. It may be worth while to explain to her the need to involve your subordinates in order to produce results.

3. “It Takes Me More Time And Effort To Explain The Job. It is Easier For Me To Do It Myself”

Consider the long term consequences if you often fall back to this excuse and therefore do not delegate. Subordinates will feel the lack of opportunity to develop and you personally get overworked. It will certainly take more time in the beginning but it will eventually pay off as the subordinate gets the hang of it.

The time taken initially to explain the job to the subordinate is an investment that managers will have to make in order to reap the payoffs which come with having delegated appropriately.

4. “If I Delegate, I will Lose Touch And Not Have All The Answers To Questions From My Boss”

A manager certainly won’t have all the answers if she delegates, but a smart manager certainly would know what her boss normally looks for – in terms of specific information generally asked for.

You could anticipate the information she would require and consequently you should require the same from your subordinates. Proper control and regular feedback will keep you well informed of the aspects of the assignment that you and your boss consider critical.

5. “If I Delegate The Job, My Subordinate Will Learn And Eventually It Might Make Me Redundant As A Manager”

The feeling probably stems from a sense of insecurity and the lack of confidence which needs to be addressed. Managers should realize that the advantage of delegation outweighs the setbacks of this potential scenario.

If a manager succeeds in developing an outstanding subordinate, it will certainly reflect on her effectiveness as a manager. If a manager develops a subordinate well, she is more likely to gain a loyal subordinate who will speak highly of her a manager.

If she does not delegate for the above reason, end-result will still be unfavourable. The manager’s own work gets piled up, she works longer hours and her own self development will be affected.


The 4-Step Process to Delegation

1. Analyse the task/assignment in question and decide what needs to be delegated.

  1. Which part of the project can be delegated and to whom?
  2. What needs to be controlled by you?
  3. What are the key elements of the task that require strict adherence?
  4. Which part do you allow creativity and initiatives of the subordinates?
  5. What limitations do you have in terms of resources, for example budgets time, etc?
  6. What results do I want and by when?

2. Select The Right Person 

  1. What criteria would I base the selection of the person on?
  2. Does she have the knowledge and skill?
  3. What kind of guidance and training would she need?
  4. Is this an area which she would be particularly excited about.
  5. What other responsibilities does she presently have

3. Make The Delegation

  1. Describe the overall picture of the task or assignment.
  2. Clarify your expectations in terms of desired results.
  3. Define the limitations of time, budget and resources.
  4. Check with her for understanding and allow for questions.
  5. Ask her for her plans on how she intends to go about the job.
  6. Provide suggestions and ideas and discuss variations, if any.
  7. Solicit her commitment to the task.
  8. Establish agreement on follow-up discussion – when and where.

4. Follow-up

A delegation is only as good as the results it brings for you. Following up to ensure that the assignment is being carried out well is an integral part of delegation. The subordinate might need help or guidance from you – and failure to follow up would give rise to a gap in results. To delegate without control and follow-up may be counter-productive. WAW