Articles abound as to why individuals don’t – or won’t – delegate. Whether in the Harvard Business Review (July, 2012), or the Huffington Post (August 2015), or a variety of blogs and posts, leadership trailblazers cite numerous reasons, numbering from as few as five to as many as nine to 10 to 14.
All are explanations (perhaps excuses) that make sense. My favorites are the following six:
- “it’s easier to do it myself;”
- “it takes too long to explain;”
- “I can do it better anyway;”
- “isn’t this task my job;”
- “there is too much risk in delegating, since the ‘buck stops’ with me;” and,
- “if I delegate this high-profile project, won’t my boss view me as redundant?”
This blog is a sister to the guest post that Julie Winkle Giulioni graciously published today on www.juliewinklegiulioni.com. Thus, if you read the two, the vital tips will look familiar; however, the example is different.
Delegation is a Vital Skill Set for Managers — The Five Vital Tips:
- Delegate to Results, Not Process: Be Strategic
- Delegate in “Bite-Sized” Pieces
- Provide the Tools to Get the Job Done
- Check-In Without Hovering
- Resist the Temptation to Substitute Your Excellent Solution
Tip #1: Delegate to Results, Not Process: Be Strategic
This requires a thoughtful approach to delegation and the delegator making a careful determination as to exactly what the goal of the delegation is. What is the end product sought? Ask yourself this question: the delegation will have been successful, if what is the end product? Ultimately, if the goal is met, the way in which the employee gets there is irrelevant. A story is useful here.
Imagine that the CEO of a traditional company met with the HR VP in January of one year, requesting that she develop a new, more cutting-edge compensation program for implementation January of the following year. The HR VP (respectfully) quizzed the CEO on what his goals or objectives were. He readily answered that he wanted a program that: 1) had money at risk to the employees in the form of bonus potential; 2) compensated employees for both the value of the job and their respective contributions; and, 3) was embraced, or at least understood and accepted by the employee population.
Armed with the three concrete goals, the HR VP delegated the project to the Compensation Manager, indicating that he should come back with the completed and proposed program in September of the current year, to enable time to present it to the C-Suite for approval and implementation in January of the following year. Although the HR VP knew that the Comp Manager was skilled, she also knew that he tended to “over-commit” and at times, “under-perform.”
The HR VP was a seasoned executive who had delegated many a project – both large and small – and had learned from her mistakes. This time, she followed tips two through five.
Tip #2: Delegate in Bite-Sized Pieces
The HR VP met with the Comp Manager, outlining the three goals, and the time frame, indicating she would remove from his plate all other projects. She also:
- Requested the Manager return to his office and outline in an e-mail his understanding of the project;
- Asked for a detailed timeline, by quarter, of the project deliverables. The timeline was due the following week, allowing the two to discuss and tweak it, if needed;
- Indicated she would check in with the Manager – in essence to be his partner – throughout the project to answer questions, offer assistance and do whatever else she could to facilitate goal attainment; and,
- Committed that her office door would be open to questions, including the Manager’s need to alter the timeline, if possible.
Tip #3: Provide the Tools to Get the Job Done
To ensure this high-priority project would be completed on time and to the CEO’s specifications, she:
- Advised the Manager that the two would develop a detailed budget, which she would run up the line for approval;
- Indicated she would secure an intern to assist with the project;
- She removed other projects from the Manager’s plate; and,
- Stated she would be available to assist, if needed.
Tip #4: Check in Without Hovering
The HR VP wanted to monitor the project’s progress and to do whatever she could to make sure it met the goals and objectives. She also knew that looking over the Manager’s shoulder could be counter-productive: it could add stress level to the Manager and might inhibit him from doing his best work.
Yet, she also knew that delegating such a big project could be risky for her, so she wanted to ensure the project and all of its component parts were on track. So, she:
- Checked in every two weeks with the project timeline in hand to ask how things were going, and to learn whether the Comp Manager was on track;
- When she learned he was struggling a bit, the HR VP set up a meeting and the two discussed who else could assist, what could be removed from the project timeline and still meet the overarching goals, and she established weekly check-in meetings; and,
- She reminded the Manager that it was critical he alert her to any progress slippages, so they could be rectified.
Within two months, the project was back on track. To ensure it stayed on track, the HR VP kept the weekly check-in meetings.
Tip #5 Resist the Temptation to Substitute Your Excellent Solution
The Manager’s proposed compensation plan met the CEO’s overarching goal, that is, the program satisfied the three aims, had employee buy-in and was ready in time for C-Suite presentation. Ultimately, the program was implemented as proposed and delivered. The HR VP had a different idea on the payment at risk/bonus component of the Plan, and it rankled her that the Comp Manager disregarded her recommendation in favor of the one he proposed.
Nonetheless, the HR VP resisted the temptation to substitute her own idea, for she knew that had she done so, the year-long effort to mentor the Comp Manager would have been for naught. And, his idea met the CEO’s goal – it just wasn’t what she wanted.
End of the Story:
By having followed the five vital tips for delegation, the HR VP accomplished:
- Attainment of the CEO’s goals;
- Trained a Manager on the fine art of delegation;
- Increased her own leadership chops;
- Motivated the entire department that they, too, could be mentored through a high-profile project; and,
- Freed herself up to work on other strategic organizational goals making herself promotable to the SVP position!