Dump, Delegate or Deal: Tips on Delegation

I read a quote recently by Daniel Doctoroff, CEO of Bloomberg L.P., who said, “I either delegate something, I dump it, or I deal with it.”

In my last column, I mentioned that the problem with many CEOs is that they end up dealing with tasks they should have dumped or delegated. Many never learned how crucial delegation is to the success of their business. The simple truth is that you can never grow a successful business unless you learn to delegate.

An article on Forbes.com references London business school professor John Hunt who says that only 30 percent of managers think they can delegate and of those, only one in three is considered a good delegator by his subordinates. I’ll do the math for you: only one out of 10 managers know how to delegate effectively.

Here are a few tips if your delegation skills could use some refining.

Be clear about what is necessary for the success of your business

In an article I read recently on FastCompany.com, “A Reformed Workaholic on How to Work Smarter,” author Kate Matsudaira wrote, “Take a long, hard look at your to-do list and your big-picture goals. Some of these items are critical and must be done by you, but most likely many aren’t. Ask yourself, ‘How does this grow my business?’ and be ruthless about cutting out anything that doesn’t fit.”

Don’t micromanage

Hire the right people and let them do their jobs. Being micromanaged fosters bad morale, resentment and employees feeling that they are not trusted. Employees want to feel like they “own” their work and feel trusted to get their jobs done.

Learn from the example of K.T. Keller, cited in the article “History’s 10 worst auto chiefs.” K.T. was president of Chrysler from 1935 to 1950 and put himself at the center of an organizational chart that resembled a wheel. All communication went through him and he involved himself in details of design, much to the detriment of the company. He thought cars should have roofs high enough so people could wear hats inside them, which led to unfashionable cars and declining sales.

Give employees the ability to make decisions

In addition to delegating work, also delegate responsibility for that work and the authority to make decisions regarding its completion. Your employees will feel empowered, trusted and more positive about the work environment. And guess what? They will also be more productive and the company won’t waste a lot of time sending decisions up the organizational chart that could be handled at a lower level.To get started, try these four steps from the article “Delegate now, before it’s too late.”

  1. Define and hand over the full responsibility to the identified candidate(s) as an experiment.
  2. Step back, do not interfere and observe the process for a few weeks.
  3. Iron out the kinks, pull back some tasks or give extra responsibility based on the observations of what went right or wrong during the period.
  4. Stabilize the process, get the documentation in place and set up reporting timetables and templates to get ongoing feedback on the delegated process.

Repeat as necessary, and watch your business grow.

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