By William Carden
How to achieve results through the efforts of others
Almost all managers complain that they have too much to do and too little time to do it. If not checked, this feeling leads to stress and ineffectiveness on the job. In most cases, managers could greatly reduce their stress by practicing a critical management skill—delegation.
Every minute you spend working on something that could be done effectively by someone you supervise is a minute of reduced management effectiveness.
Defining Delegation. Delegation is a concept we have all heard about, but which few understand. It can be used either as an excuse for dumping failure onto the shoulders of subordinates or as a dynamic tool for motivating and training employees to realize their full potential. Effective delegation underpins a style of management that allows your people to use and develop their skills and knowledge to their full potential.
Historically, delegation has been a vertical process, with managers delegating to subordinates in a clearly defined hierarchical structure. Today, successful organizations are emphasizing both vertical and horizontal delegating.
Delegation is the act of entrusting the responsibility and authority for an activity to another person. To enable someone else to do the activity in your place, you must ensure that they:
- know what you want done;
- have the authority to do it; and
- have the skills and know-how to do it.
Delegation is not simply a task assignment from a manager; it is the allocation of responsibility, authority and accountability for something that is part of the manager’s job. Thus, it is not abdication. The manager still has the ultimate accountability for the assignment.
Benefits of Delegation. The benefits of delegation are both short-term and long-term. For the manager, there is immediately lessened stress because you do not have to do everything yourself. It also opens up the opportunity to concentrate on priorities and to do what you should be doing: the important, not the urgent.
For the employee you delegate actions to, you are helping to develop that person and improve his or her skills. The employee gains a personal sense of achievement through the completion of critical tasks and an enhanced sense of value to the organization.
The farm business benefits when more creative and effective ways of doing things are being identified by more than one person. Employees feel a deeper sense of responsibility for and ownership in the farm. Transitions to new positions and new leadership becomes easier because more employees are prepared to step up to responsibility.
It’s important to be truthful and acknowledge that there are downsides to delegation. Sometimes,
the job just doesn’t get done or doesn’t get done the way the manager would like. It takes more time to explain how to do something as opposed to just doing it yourself. Employees who fail in their responsibilities might feel too "defeated" to try again.
The most important thing to remember as you begin to practice the art of delegation is this: Once you have delegated a task, do not ever take it back unless there is truly an impending disaster.
In the next part of this series, I will discuss the delegation process and the steps to determine what to delegate on the farm and to whom.
William Carden is president and CEO of the Carden Group, a strategic planning and management consulting firm based in Texas. Carden is a former bank president and director of the School of Community Bank Management at Texas Tech University. He has also served on the board of directors for KFC and CBG Holdings Inc. He has authored several management books and is a visiting lecturer at The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers (TEPAP).
Rate Yourself as a Delegator
- Do you work longer hours than most of the managers on the farm?
- Are you frequently interrupted with questions?
- Do you spend time on a lot of repetitive details?
- If you are gone for a couple of days, is your desk piled high with messages and paperwork when you return?
- Do you have difficulty meeting deadlines?
- Are you still handling the same activities and problems that you did when you first became
- a manager?
- Do you spend large amounts of time reviewing the work of those you supervise?
- Do you like to keep tabs on every aspect of the farm’s operations and workings?
Reasons Employees Resist Delegation
- Possible criticism or embarrassment if they mess up—"learned apathy."
- They do not have the necessary skills or knowledge.
- They feel that they are being dumped on.
- They feel it is just easier to ask the boss to fix a problem than to decide for themselves.
- They have received no reward or recognition in the past for a job well done.
- They do not have the desire to do the job.
- They are too comfortable doing the job they’ve been doing.
Excuses for Not Delegating
- Perfectionism: "I can do it better myself."
- "I don’t have time to explain it."
- "I don’t have anyone to delegate to. My people are already overworked."
- "No one on my staff can do it right; they would just mess it up."
- You get a great deal of pleasure from a certain aspect of the work and hate to give it up.
- Wanting to be indispensable; fear that if someone else does it, you might not be needed.
- Fear of fallout if someone messes up.