Women have a tendency to be worse at delegating than men although this is not for the same reasons that people in general are not good at delegation.
People in general are not good at delegation because delegation takes too much time and too much patience. Good delegation means investing a lot of time up front to explain to someone else what to do, how do it and what needs to be delivered. We often believe this is wasted time because we believe we can do a task much faster and better ourselves. We believe when we do it ourselves we save time. We believe delegation is wasting time but delegation is not wasting time. Delegation may shift time but it normally saves time. Unfortunately we do not think about delegation in this manor because the patience and good communication skills up needed up-front equates to time.
Another reason people do not like to delegate is because of the perceived “trust” barrier. This barrier is reflected in such sayings as ”if you want it done right do it yourself”. When we delegate we must have trust in others because we pass on our responsibilities to someone else. This means we have to trust the other to do the job in the same quality we would. Trust can make delegation difficult because it does not guarantee the expect outcome.
For women delegation is even harder. Women deal with the issues of time, communication and trust, but they also have a third issue: one that is their biggest barrier. This issue is the issue of fear, the fear of not being recognized. Female employees and managers feel the need to prove their value. For women proving their value is equated with getting recognized. For many women delegation contradicts getting recognized.
Getting recognized is difficult enough in the competitive workplace and delegation complicates it. Women often believe if they delegate they will not be seen. This is not true. Good delegations skills help prove to others that a manager has good organizational and people skills. These skills get recognized more often than the delivery of small tasks.
Delegation skills are essential if one wants to progress up the career ladder. Delegating is necessary in order to be able to manage the deliveries we need to deliver in our demanding positions. It is also necessary for time management purposes and for our simple piece of mind.
Delegation is also a great way to get people involved and demonstrate ones management skills. Delegation is an excellent development tool and it allows one to learn the strengths and weaknesses of ones staff.
What we cannot do is underestimate what it takes to delegate. Good delegation means a lot of work up front and using the right skills. It takes patience and time. It takes knowing your colleagues, your staff and your employees. It means a commitment to trust. This is why for many delegation is very difficult but by using the correct approach it can be made easier.
Rules of Good Delegation
To whom do I delegate?
- Is there someone whose competencies or expertise will allow him or her to complete the task?
- Will the task help the development of an individual?
- What knowledge, skills and attitude does the person have?
- How much explanation and time will you need to explain the task to a person (are they quick learners, slower, not experienced)
- What kind of resources will the person need (do they need more or less support and resources than another)
- What is the individual’s work style? Can he/she work independently? Are they good with deadlines? What is the quality of their delivery?
- What are the individual’s goals? Will the delegation help them with their goals? Will they accept the delegation as a positive or negative process?
- Does the person have the time capacity to complete the task?
How do I delegate?
- Make sure you match the delegation to the level and experience of the position.
- Use clear communication and articulate the desired outcome; explain what you have in mind as the desired results. Ask them to repeat back to you the desired outcome to ensure they understood.
- Be clear about the boundaries. What are the lines of authority, responsibility and accountability? What are the decision-making competencies?
- Be clear about the amount of free decision-making capacity they have. Should they wait to be told what to do or ask what to do?
- Be clear on whom else may have input into the task and clarify the amount of input allowed. Are other people limited to recommendations or can they change the desired path?
- Get the persons’ involvement in the delegation process. Empower them to decide with you what tasks are to be delegated to them and when.
- Ensure they have adequate support. This means both human support as well as ensuring they have access to the support materials that are needed for the job.
- Build motivation and commitment to the task. Explain why it is important and why you have entrusted the task to them.
How do I control what I delegate?
- Ensure that they know how to report the results. Are there milestones you want to know about; should they report everything at the end of the task. Are there certain critical issues you want to know or do you only want the end results?
- Do not allow reverse delegation by having them shift the responsibility of the task back to you. Be there for critical milestones if needed but do not take over the task. Do not give too much feedback during the process.
- Check the end result carefully for quality. If the quality is not as expected send it back. Be sure to give honest and open feedback as to the quality of the job done.
- Do not correct the final work, delegate it back if needed.
- Allow the individual to give feedback after the task is over. Allow them to recognize and discuss with you the learning’s from the task or the development needed to do the next task better.
Do not be afraid to delegate and if you do not know how, then learn. If you are afraid to take the first step in the workplace, then practice at home. Begin by trying some of the above tips at home and you can learn a lot about the necessary delegation skills. For example, tell your child to clean his/her room. If the end result does not meet your expectations ask yourself why. Did you explain to your child that cleaning means that all the toys must go in the toy box and all the clothes in the drawers? Was there a communication gap; were you not clear in your communicate? Where your expectations not clear? Did you motivate your child and get his/her commitment to do the job? What could you have done better to get the result you wanted?
There are so many simple life examples we can use to practice our delegation skills; we just have to take the first step.
In the workplace begin with one or two tasks first and see how it goes. Learn from your mistakes. If are not naturally good at delegating, do not start with complicated tasks or multiple tasks. Start small and develop your own skills first and then delegation will become easier for you and more fulfilling for your staff.
In the end remember that delegation is a necessary management skill, and without it you will not go very far or you yourself will burn out.