Good managers practice techniques for effective delegation of responsibilities


February 14, 1993|By Niki Scott

We all know that to be effective managers, we have to learn to delegate responsibility. A lot of us find this hard to do, nevertheless, probably because somewhere along the line we came to believe that if we wanted something done right, we had to do it ourselves.

In our defense, we didn't come up with this theory on our own. It usually occurred to us after our husbands have shrunk our woolen slacks until they wouldn't fit a Chihuahua, and our children persisted in waxing all of the wooden furniture with window cleaner .

And what really was strange was how bewildered, hurt (and secretly relieved) our spouses and children looked when we finally said, "Nevermind! It's easier to do it myself!"

So if you're having trouble delegating today, knowing you're not alone -- and following these 13 steps -- might help:

* Take time to explain what you want. Be specific! Ask your employee enough questions to be sure she understands exactly what's expected of her -- even if you have to repeat yourself -- because the time you spend now can save you time later.

* Fill your subordinate in with all the information she'll need to complete the assignment successfully. What sources, resources or equipment will she need? How has this sort of project been completed in the past -- and what, if any, changes do you want her to make this time?

* Put the assignment into context. How does it fit in with the goals of your department and the company as a whole?

* List the specific parts of the project that she'll have to complete in order to end up with the finished product you want.

* Be specific about how much power and authority she'll have. If she knows exactly how much responsibility she can take on, she'll be less likely to overstep her bounds or be too timid.

* Give your employee a way to measure her own success. How will you -- and she -- know if she's done a good job?

* Now listen carefully to how she responds to what you've said so far. Does she sound uncertain? Uncomfortable? Anxious? Resentful? If so, find out what the problem is while it's still small enough to manage.

* Make it clear from the start that you're not going to get involved in the project once you've finished assigning it. Force your worker to think for herself, as well. Refuse to take part in decision-making unless you absolutely have to.

* Insist that she come armed with solutions, not just problems, if she must consult with you along the way. Insist that she attempt, at least, to resolve her own difficulties.

* Anticipate the rough spots. If you know where your staffer is likely to run into trouble, it's only fair to warn her ahead of time.

* Schedule regular updates. Ask her to hand you one-page written reports on the dates you specify, so you can skim them before you meet. This will force her to organize her thoughts and give you time to organize yours.

* Give your employee honest and thorough feedback about her performance, once the project is completed -- and tell her what she did right before you tell her what she did wrong.

* Finally, practice, practice, practice. Unless you take (and make!) every opportunity to practice this skill, you'll keep right on believing that it's easier to do everything yourself -- and it isn't.

) Universal Press Syndicate

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