Mastering the art of delegation as servant leaders do

Sunday, September 12, 2010 5:29

In the first part of this article, David Wee talked about the importance of understanding SMART delegation and why it is an important aspect of good management. In this piece, he gives tips and advice on how to delegate, the do’s and don’ts so as to master this critical skill for aspiring managers and entrepreneurs.

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What to delegate?
Study what kind of job you intend to delegate. Plan how you are going to present the assignment, including your requirements, parameters, authority level, checkpoints and expectations. Servant leaders use persuasion rather than relying on their positional authority, in getting things done.

Don’t delegate what you are not able to do. Don’t delegate what you can eliminate. If you shouldn’t be doing an activity, then perhaps you shouldn’t be giving the activity away to others. Eliminate it.

Delegate routine activities even though you don’t want to

Examples of these would include things like: fact-finding assignments, preparation of rough drafts of reports, answering routine questions, problem analysis and suggested actions, collection of data for reports, filing, counting, sorting, routine reports, making minor decisions.

Delegate things that aren’t part of your core competency

For small businesses, these include accounting, web site design, deliveries, hardware upkeep, software help, graphic design, travel arrangements, patenting, legal issues and even HR functions such as payroll.

Some things you must not delegate:

1. Performance reviews, discipline, and firing.
2. An emergency or short-term task where there’s no time to explain or train
3. Morale problems
4. A presentation to investors about your company’s financial performance and future plans
5. A job no one else in the company is qualified to do

Delegate the objective, not the procedure
Make sure the standards and the outcome are clear. What needs to be done, when should it be finished and to what degree of quality or detail? Outline the desired results, not the methodology. Ask people to provide progress reports. Set interim deadlines to see how things are going.

Delegate to the right person
Andrew Carnegie once said, “The secret of success is not in doing your own work but in recognizing the right man to do it.” Don’t always give tasks to the strongest, most experienced or first available person. Spread delegation around and give people new experiences as part of their training.

Seek and listen to feedback

Obtain feedback from employees to ensure they feel they’re being treated appropriately. A simple “How’s it going with that new project?” might be all that’s needed. True listening
builds strength in other people.

Delegate authority, not just responsibility

Be sure to delegate the authority along with the responsibility. Don’t make people come back to you for too many minor approvals. Trust people to do well and don’t look over their shoulders or check up with them along the way, unless they ask. Be prepared to trade short term errors for long term results. When you finish giving instructions, the last thing to ask is, “How can I help you to do your job better?”. They’ll tell you. Give praise and feedback at the end of the project, and additional responsibilities.

The biggest barrier to delegating is overcoming the entrepreneur’s curse: insisting on doing it all. That’s a fatal error that prevents start-ups from growing into viable companies.

Here’s how to tell if you’re digging yourself into a hole. When a friend asks, “How was work
today?” Do you talk about how much work you did? Or do you focus on the work that you coached others to do? The servant leader has a deep sense of awareness of himself and the environment around him.

- David Wee

David Wee is the Founder & CEO of Asia Asia Speakers Bureau (ASB) and DW Associates Pte Ltd, a company empowering creativity and knowledge.

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