A Word About Delegation

12/06/2013 02:24 pm ET | Updated Feb 05, 2014

Every person in a position of authority within an organization MUST learn to delegate. Delegation goes hand in glove with the level of responsibility; tasks must leave the manager's desk and be placed in the hands of a subordinate or teams of subordinates.
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Following are some questions and considerations that need addressing when a delegation situation arises:

Who do you delegate to? "Importance" plays the key role in this decision. Do I need to be down in the weeds to accomplish a particular task? Is there a staff person competent enough to undertake a task and achieve a favorable result? Does the designated delegate need to have a strategic view? If you're delegating a job that's important strategically, you must determine how high up the management ladder you need to go in order to get the information and achieve your goal over time.

What's your follow-up process? You must have a set "report-back" schedule, and it must be communicated at the initial meeting. You don't want to be chasing the designated employee for the outcome. If, for some reason, you're unable to assign a completion date or time to a task, understand that you'll need to keep track of the assigned action step-by-step. If a decision depends on the outcome of an assigned task, understand that your move will be on hold until you have the information you need. Therefore, it becomes critical that the delegate understands you'll be waiting for results.

What mistakes can you avoid in delegating? Attempting to delegate to an employee not equipped to take on the task is a prescription for failure. Such a mistake will engender a stream of questions about what to do next or how to do it. Ultimately, this scenario will become unmanageable, and you'll have to reassign the job or take it on yourself. This creates two problems: First, you've lost whatever time you'd devoted to trying to make the employee successful. Second, you'll now have to relieve that unsuccessful employee of the task without undermining his/her confidence, and make the result -- or lack thereof -- a learning experience. Your poor choice of a delegate has created a less-than-ideal situation. Choose your delegate wisely.

How can you delegate successfully? Simple -- hire more wisely. In order to delegate with confidence, you must ensure that the employee possesses the skills necessary to get the job done. Hiring an employee who is not equipped for potential assignments is a failure of the talent-acquisition process. Hiring "Johnny One Note" for a specific task may seem correct, but you need to look for people in the interview process who cannot only work on a given, subscribed task, but also rise above it. Unless you hire better and follow up with systemized training for new employees, you'll not build a staff of competent, flexible, motivated employees. If your hiring is done correctly, delegation is relatively easy because your staff will be populated with high-functioning individuals in every position.

How does delegation develop staff? There's no growth without challenge. You can't allow your company to grow stagnant, nor can you allow employees to become mere functionaries. If you don't take them out of their comfort zones from time to time, their jobs can become drudgery. Delegating import assignments to employees communicates trust It also gives them a chance to show you that they have more to offer. It's a win-win. You wind up with an employee eager to help, you've recognized an individual's worth, and you've made it clear that they fit into your company's grand scheme.

Delegation shouldn't be looked at only as a means for get things done. It has great potential as a teaching tool at all levels of an organization. It recognizes employees as being capable of responsibility, and creates team players. Individuals appreciate being asked to expand their roles and provide a valuable service within the company in addition to their assigned jobs.

The better you delegate, the better the result -- not only for you, but also for your employees and your company as a whole.

If you would like to read more of Greg's published articles please visit the Lorraine Gregory Communications Group website

This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.