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The Problem with Delegation

Last updated March 12, 2013
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As we wake this morning we yet again ask ourselves that ever recurring question – how am I going to cram 20 hours of work into an 8, 10 or 12 hour day? The ‘to do’ list just seems to multiply overnight, and that’s without all the things I thought about just as I was going to sleep – or worse still those problems, challenges and actions that I was mulling over at 3am when I couldn’t sleep!

Why is it that everyone wants a piece of me? Why is it I’m the only one who seems capable of doing X, Y or Z? Why do I have to do it all? Why can’t my staff do it how I want it done?

Just about everyone I meet has a problem with the concept of delegation and how to do it right. Many have tried to delegate work, actions or projects only to find them flying back either incomplete, behind schedule, or just not executed correctly. So that old maxim ‘if you want something done right, do it yourself’ takes over and your to do list continues to grow.

In my recent post Are You Just Too Busy to Get Anything Done?  I detail three tactics to help you focus on the important part of your role and avoid being completely swamped. These are automate, terminate or delegate. The concepts around the first two are quickly understood but so many people really don’t understand the delegate part.

Here are 4 reasons why delegation doesn't work properly and what you can do to get it right.

1. Over Delegation. This happens when you delegate a task to a person who is too junior or to someone who doesn’t have the skill set to be able to do the task competently. The person having been given the responsibility struggles to complete the task because they don’t really know how to do it. This can be addressed by thinking who is the most appropriate person to do the task and giving them a good briefing on what and how to do it. If you have documented processes in your business then there is a clear route map for the person to follow and complete the task.

2. Under Delegation. This is a wasted resource. This is delegating a task to someone who is far too senior, competent and over qualified. An employee wants to be challenged not given tasks that quite frankly don’t excite or challenge them. Why would you pay your most expensive resource to do the least important piece of work?

3. Abdication. This is just not delegation! But it happens all the time! Don’t delegate a task and then leave the person ‘drowning’. Although you have delegated the task you are still accountable for its delivery. Sadly, most managers’ view of delegation comes with a huge dose of abdication – it will never work effectively if you don’t keep track of progress.

4. No One to Delegate To. This is such an easy one to solve! First review your to-do list and highlight all the things that you could delegate. For example, this could be your bookkeeping and VAT – so find a great bookkeeper – whatever their rate is for the job it will be vastly cheaper than your hourly rate. Virtual Assistants or VA’s as they are known are a great resource to tap into – you can do this by the hour or a fixed price for a task. They are versatile, flexible and brilliant at working in a delegation situation.

Delegation is a great business skill and one that is easily learnt. It not only relieves your work load, it enables junior staff to gain practical experience of what they need to do to get promotion. Employees will feel really valued when delegation is done right. The critical aspect is to not to abdicate and keep communication channels open with your delegate, help them do it right.

Shirley Mansfield
Master Business Problem Solver

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