Directing to Delegating
A planned approach to employee development is the most effective way to get things off your plate and onto your team’s. Yet some managers only think of delegating when their work is spilling off their plate and they see no other option but to hand it off. While a more measured approach to identifying what to delegate is preferable, this article focuses on how to delegate regardless of the task.
Dumping: Just do it
This is the “what not to do” in management lexicon. Assuming the employee will already know how to do the thing and/or assuming they understand what an acceptable outcome is stacks the odds against the manager’s expectations being met. Not that they won’t get the desired result, it’s just a lot less likely than if they had set the expectations in the first place.
Directing: Do it my way
The first step toward delegation is directing. With directing, the manager has an outcome in mind as well as a way of approaching it. This tactic is best used when the employee is new to a task. The manager explains what to do, how to do it, and the expected results.
Ensuring that all details of the directed task are clearly explained is paramount. If the employee only says “yes” when they are asked if they know what to do, additional explanation is likely needed. When the employee can use their own words to explain what is to be done, the manager can be more confident that they expressed themselves clearly and the odds of the desired outcome increase.
Coaching: Tell me how you want to do it (but do it my way)
Once the employee has demonstrated competence in the task, the manager will still direct them. However, they should also be interested in how the employee thinks the task should be completed before telling them how to do it. Explaining the outcome and then asking them what their approach will be and what potential pitfalls exist will develop the critical thinking necessary for future delegation. Then, if they missed the mark, tell them what to do. They still need to do it your way but they’re learning the hidden traps the manager has experienced that the employee might not have foreseen.
Supporting: Tell me how you want to do it and listen to my advice (but do it your way)
There are a lot of lessons to be learned from mistakes. When a manager is in a supporting role, the employee gets to do it their way. The employee has enough experience to provide valuable input and their method might even be better. The discussion is very similar to when the manager is coaching but, at the end of the discussion, the employee has the authority to choose their path.
Delegating: You’ve got this, let me know how it works out
Delegation comes when the manager is confident in the employee’s competence. When things go wrong (as they are always at risk to do) the employee can handle it. The manager is there for discussion if the employee requests it but they are trusted to achieve the outcomes without intervention and have accepted responsibility for the outcomes, whether good or bad.
The path to delegation can take a matter of hours or years and the same person can simultaneously be at many points on the path depending on the duty. Administrative tasks such as writing reports, filling out timecards, and updating the CRM should be delegable relatively quickly. However, dumping those tasks will cause a serious setback if the first attempts don’t achieve the expected results. Employees are at risk of determining that the report, timecards, or software are at fault and that they shouldn’t be required to do the task. After all, it never works out.
Delegating planning, scheduling, and relationship-oriented tasks can take longer but the development path doesn’t change.
The need to delegate is often propelled by the manager’s time management capability. Of equal or greater consideration should be the employee’s need to develop. Don’t hold onto the opportunities for your staff to grow just because you have the time to do that work. It’s your responsibility as a manager to strive for higher performance, which can only occur when you develop the people below you.
If you’re wondering about your next stage of development, give us a shout. We’d love to talk about it.
Bellrock is a process benchmarking and change management firm based in Vancouver, Canada. If you enjoyed this article, consider sharing it with your networks.