The Busy Manager's Guide to Delegation

The Busy Manager's Guide to Delegation

Authors: Richard A. Luecke, Perry McIntosh
Pub Date: August 2009
Print Edition: $12.00
Print ISBN: 9780814414743
Page Count: 112
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814414750

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The Five-Step Delegation Process

1 Determine which tasks to delegate

2 Identify the right person for the job

3 Assign the task

4 Monitor progress and provide feedback

5 Evaluate performance

Helen has just received a phone call from her boss requesting

that she take responsibility for the company’s three-day orientation

program for newly hired salespeople. The program includes

some product training but is largely focused on introducing the

newcomers to the departments and people with whom they will

interact both in the office and while working in their assigned territories.

“I like to pass this job around to our most successful

sales managers,” the boss told her. “I know that I can rely on you

to do a great job.”

The gratification she felt on hearing her boss’s flattering words

quickly fades as she stares into the screen of her work-scheduling

software. Every day is crammed with deadlines, meetings, travel,

customer appointments, and other obligations. Where will she find

the five days she needs to plan and execute the orientation session?

She can’t say no to her boss’s request, but she can’t invent

more hours and days either.

The solution, as Helen sees it, is to postpone some appointments

and travel and to delegate some of her calendar and “todo”

items to other members of the sales team. But which items?

Helen faces one of the perennial decisions faced by all managers and

many supervisors: In making the most of their limited time, they must

periodically off-load certain work to others. But which should they retain

for themselves and which should be delegated? To find the answer,

let’s jump right in with Step 1,which requires looking at all the things

that weigh on your time and determining which can—and which cannot—

be outsourced to others.

In principle,you should delegate as much as possible; doing so will

develop the capabilities of your staff and give you more time for important

and strategic work.You can delegate anything from simple tasks to

decisions to entire projects or processes. Generally, you should consider

delegating anything that your subordinates—considering their

skills and available time—are capable of handling or can be trained to

handle. These tasks will be determined by your situation. As you think

about what you should delegate, be guided first by this question:What

tasks are you now doing that do not require your unique knowledge,

skills, or authority? The answer will identify opportunities for possible

delegation. There’s still no assurance that the right people with the

right skills and sufficient time will be available to take them on.


You and your subordinates very likely share some skills in common

(see Figure 1-1).These may be the ability to contact customers via telephone,

by e-mail, or face-to-face; to generate monthly department

progress reports; to schedule meetings; to keep track of when people

plan to take their vacations; to check the accuracy of expense reports;

to provide coaching to new employees; and so forth. The list of shared

skills may be long, especially if you’ve worked your way up the ladder

in the department.You had to learn all those things to get where you

are now. And even though you’re the manager, it’s likely that some people

have specialized skills you don’t have. For example,the manager of

an ad department may have no idea how to do what his graphic designer

can accomplish. But there is also a skill set that is uniquely

yours, things that only you can do by virtue of your training, experience,

or authority. Budgeting,planning,sales forecasting,customer/supplier

negotiating, effective meeting management, and mentoring are

just a few of the skills that we normally think of as uniquely managerial

skills.True, a sharp protégé may have mastered some of these skills,but

few subordinates of lower or middle managers will have them.

Now that you understand the shared skill set in your work group,

consider the many tasks you are personally handling that fall within

that shared skill set. Remember, these are tasks you are doing that do

not require your unique capabilities as a manager—things that other

people could do. These may include developing monthly reports, set-

ting up outside appointments, filing, or correspondence.To be systematic,

make a list of these tasks, like the one shown in Figure 1-2. Now

take a look at your list and ask yourself,“Which of these tasks could I

reasonably delegate to someone else?” Put a check mark next to these.

Don’t worry about who will pick up these tasks.We’ll get to that in the

next chapter.

Whenever possible, identify entire tasks, not bits and pieces of

jobs. By making one person responsible for an entire task, not only do

you give that person a greater sense of control and responsibility, but

you also avoid the coordination problems and “hand-off errors” that

typically plague jobs that are delegated among several people. If the

task is too large for one person to take it on, consider delegating it to

a team. Delegating to a team is different from delegating different parts

of a task to different individuals. A team can organize the work assigned

to it and hold itself accountable as a group for the work’s successful



When you’re considering tasks to delegate, an easy way

to begin is to list tasks that recur frequently or regularly. Recurring

tasks, such as the following,show up at all levels of

the organization and require different levels of skill:

* Reserving a conference room and ordering lunch for

the weekly sales meeting

* Reviewing inventory levels and placing regular orders

* Checking the accuracy of expense reports submitted

by your people

* Updating the monthly budget report with the latest

sales and expense figures

Almost by definition, these tasks become routine,

which means that once you’ve shown someone how to

handle them, you won’t have to show them again. By contrast,

a onetime chore may not be worth delegating, given

the time you’ll have to invest in training someone to do it

right. The time available for training and overseeing

progress should always become part of your calculus in deciding

what to delegate. True “onetime chores,” however,

are rare in the business world.

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