Where Do You Sit On the Scale?
Are you under-delegating? Are you a control-freak?
Are you delegating too much? Are you an absentee manager?
Are you erratic in doing both? Are you a seagull manager?
Problems arise when you are too far on either end of the scale. When you under-delegate, you are the only one staying awake at night thinking of solutions. When you over-delegate, you are in danger of being held responsible for a huge mess that you had no awareness of.
Three Signs You Are Under-Delegating
- People head in the opposite direction when they see you approach. They’re concerned you’ll grill them about details of their work.
- When you talk with your team, you’re doing 90% of the talking. They think you’re not interested in their ideas. Or if they do have a good idea, they are concerned you’ll take it over.
- People come to you frequently with problems. They want to hand the problem over to someone and you will oblige them.
Three Signs You Are Over-Delegating
- People head in the opposite direction when they see you approach. They’re concerned you’ll give them more work.
- When you talk with your team, you’re doing 90% of the talking. You’re not involved in the work and what you’re talking about is not relevant or interesting.
- People don’t come to you with problems. They don’t see any point in sharing concerns with you because you won’t do anything about it.
5 Questions to Determine When to Delegate
The goal is to find the right balance of involvement – to delegate as much as possible without losing connection. For delegating to be successful, consider these questions:
- Are the goals clear and clearly understood?
- Do they have the skills to do the job? (What have you observed that indicates they are competent?)
- Do they feel confident to do this on their own? How do you know?
- Are they motivated to do this? Is this something they actually want to do? Do they believe this is worthwhile?
- Do they have the resources (information, people, funds and time) they will need?
Tips to Delegate Effectively
Don’t just hand out assignments. Delegation works best when your direct report has the opportunity to participate in the decision about what will be delegated.
Have a conversation. Discuss the 5 questions above to determine whether it makes sense to delegate. If you agree to delegate, be clear and specific about:
- The goals and tasks.
- Any constraints.
- What authority they have and how that will be communicated to others.
- How progress will be monitored.
- When and how results will be communicated to you.
- What success and good performance looks like and how it will be evaluated.
What Cannot Be Delegated
There are some tasks that belong to you. Don’t delegate performance evaluations of your direct reports, disciplinary actions, confidential and sensitive tasks, and tasks specifically assigned to you.
Most important, you can’t delegate accountability. Ultimately accountability remains with you. Be prepared to stand behind your team when mistakes are made, as inevitably they will, and to support their ongoing learning.