The Subtle Art of Delegation
What is delegation?
One of the biggest challenges that an organization faces is how to effectively delegate work with optimal results?
Delegation, as per management principles, is the act of assigning a part of the task or work, mostly from a higher authority to someone else for a specific purpose. The responsibility and accountability of the task still remain with the person delegating the task.
When does delegation fail? Explained with scenarios
Delegation is the most overlooked management concept in the corporate world.
Every individual interprets or applies this term as per his/her own convenience and mostly end up misusing it for all the wrong reasons.
Following are some interesting observations I have come across:
- Fresher/Jr. Executives: For 1-3 years, the team members are on the learning curve but tend to pass on their tasks to others in the team. Some freshers are so overambitious that without grinding hard the right way or getting their hands dirty they want to switch to better roles or tasks. This is not a delegation or even team spirit.
- Sr. Executives: After gaining some experience (at least 2-4 years) they are in a position to guide a newbie on tasks and download routine tasks to them. However, a line needs to be drawn on what tasks they will assign and what tasks they are supposed to do themselves where more experience is required. Blindly assigning all tasks to freshers and then blaming them for not getting the desired outcomes is not delegation.
- SME/Team Leads/Managers: As one moves up the ladder (5-7 years), it is crucial to understand the key roles and deliverables pertaining to the role. Some managers pass on team management and other critical tasks to the performing team members in the team, without realizing that the person does not have the maturity to handle people. They end up screwing the whole team. Technically, the team leads/managers should retain rights and power in terms of tools and decision making. There is no way this can be passed on to juniors. Do not delegate tasks that are high risks if you do not fully trust the person with capabilities.
- Employers/Management heads: These are people who have started things from scratch and mostly been through hell and lots of ups and downs to attain the position they are in. However, when it comes to delegation, most of them still don’t know the true essence of this concept. A lot of employers, especially in small offices or setups, think that it is wise to ask the managers to ‘mentor’ their team members (who are paid very less) on process and skills, so that if needed or during the crisis, they can get rid of the seniors drawing a higher salary without affecting the work. Some employers actually keep assigning every task to everyone (regardless of verticals or functions) in the company so that everyone knows how to do everything and if anyone person leaves, the work is not disrupted. They are more focussed on getting the task done rather than business or results. Some management heads are so ignorant that they assign the same tasks to the junior and manager. This also leads to a feeling of job dissatisfaction in the employees as they are not able to do their core job and get caught up in the nitty-gritty of taking the blame for all tasks that fail. Things become worse during appraisals as the junior is not able to justify his performance due to ambiguity and the management thinks that the person is not able to handle responsibilities. This is where the whole organization comes crashing. The ill-effects of this are visible only after a few months/years.
Solution and Conclusion
While entrusting subordinates with responsibilities, have clarity about the tasks that the subordinate can handle and whether he has the required skill set, both in terms of hard skills and soft skills. Senior management with the help of an HR leader should define clear cut responsibilities for all levels. Provide clear guidelines about the expected outcomes and monitor the progress to avoid last-minute hassles without any sort of micromanagement. The senior management needs to think strategically when implementing delegation and if done right, it will not only get the best performance out of people but also motivate the teams the take up more responsibilities in the future.
Also, do not forget to give credit for all the good work that the team members did on the tasks that were delegated. :)