Have you ever encountered managers whose offices are disorganized and work areas subdued by mountain of files in their various stages of work activities such as pending, work-in-progress or keep-in-view?
Have you come across managers who are overwhelmed and always struggle to catch up with their deadlines because they “have so many things to do that 48 hours a day won’t be enough to finish them?” These are symptoms that these managers do not understand or practice delegation at work.
Delegation is a management process that enriches team experience and facilitates productivity in the workplace. Show me managers who do not delegate and I will show you disorganized and suboptimal performers in the organization. Managers who do not delegate are endangered species: they constitute a threat to their own health, their team members’ and overall wellbeing of the organization. These quickly burn out, and are no performers because there is no superman in the workplace.
Organizations are designed with structure with its attendant supporting pillars such as leadership, management, team, culture, authority and performance. There is no place for individuals in the mode of our fictional super heroes like the popular Superman who goes about doing all the good works all alone: fixing things, solving problems, rescuing people, taking risks, catching bad guys and delighting all his stakeholders at the expense of his life. As organizations evolve team relationship between the leader and the lead, and the manager and supervisees, there is a need to delegate among other things.
Let us consider delegation as the decision of managers to deliberately farm out authority and responsibility to their team members who in turn act on their behalf to make specific decisions or accomplish pre-defined tasks with clearly stated timeline and feedback mechanism. Simply put, it is art of managers getting work done through their team members.
Managers cannot do work alone. They must assign authority and give responsibility to their team members in who turn will give account of the tasks done when delegation occurs. In order to be effective when delegating, authority must equal responsibility. In effect, authority, responsibility and accountability are pivotal to effective delegation.
Authority in delegation means the team member has the power and the right to make decisions, give orders, use resources and all required to get the tasks done. Responsibility is the clear, concise and conclusive tasks given out to team members with definite authority and accountability expectations. Accountability means that team members are liable to produce pre-defined results.
If managers do not hold team members accountable, the team members cannot be made to suffer the consequences of their inaction. In effect, such managers do not delegate but abdicate their responsibilities. It must be stated that the ultimate responsibility reside in the managers.
Managers do not delegate and go to sleep: that amounts to abdication. They also do not delegate and breathe down the neck of their team members: that is micromanaging, and is counter-productive. However result oriented team members are, managers remain responsible and accountable to executive management for their actions and those of their team members.
The commonplace reality of today’s workplace is that only few managers delegate in the office. Most do not. Some refrain because of complex. They fear for their positions of authority. The team member might take their seat. The team member is too talented to be given responsibilities: keep her down there!
Some managers do not trust their team members and cannot give them responsibilities. Others conclude that their team members lack requisite skill sets to execute tasks at hand. As valid as these concerns are, managers should talk to a Business Coach or Consultant who will assist them to resolve their delegation ambiguities so that they could begin to delegate as they should.
Seeking help is sacrosanct because managers who do not delegate are always struggling to catch up with their daily duties. They are confronted with lots of paperwork and untreated emails. These are the managers who get to work very early, stay up till late at work and even take work home. In spite of these, they do not ever catch up. They cannot manage their workloads. Consequently, their daily lists of “TO DO” continue to get longer every week. Managers who do not delegate lose it: they micromanage or control their team members. They create a hostile work environment of bully and aggression that turns out to be abusive, and unproductive.
Delegation is beneficial to all stakeholders in the organization. It is a motivating experience for the team members and rewarding to managers. Delegation builds team members’ self-confidence, self-esteem as well as gives them a sense of belonging that they are contributing values to the organization.
Managers save more time which they can devote to strategy implementation whilst team members handle administrative duties. Team members have the opportunity to learn, horn their talents, acquire new skill sets and demonstrate potentials for higher responsibilities that make them eligible for promotion and career growth. Delegation fast-tracks career paths growth.
Delegation, when deliberately planned and properly executed, is a cost-effective means of on-the-job training that exposes team members to new skills, competencies and leadership. Delegation provides a win-win approach to career development and productivity in the workplace.
When managers draw up their “TO DO LIST” of daily work schedules, these lists fall into different work categories namely “MUST DO”, “SHOULD DO”, “COULD DO”, and “SHOULD NOT DO”. Let me quickly advise that in deciding what to delegate, managers should take on their “MUST DO TASKS” and delegate all others such as “SHOULD DO TASKS”, “COULD DO TASKS” and “SHOULD NOT DO TASKS”.
In the office, tasks of strategic importance or sensitive and confidential nature such as hiring decisions, staff discipline, performance evaluations, promotion exercise, compensation decisions and disengagement decisions among others should not be delegated: they are “MUST DO TASKS” for managers.
The size of the tie you wear or automobile you drive is not the acid test of your level of effectiveness as a manager in the office. What reflects your effectiveness is how well you manage your team members learn and practise the art of delegation as a successful manager.
Babatunde Fajimi, Management Consultant and Business Coach writes from Ikorodu, Lagos.
Postscript: This article was first published in The Union Newspaper, Lagos, Nigeria on Management Tips with Babatunde Fajimi on Sunday, September 28, 2014
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