Delegation is a powerful practice once it is well embedded in day to day business operations. At the same time, delegation is one of those sensitive areas not widely or appropriately practised for many reasons. Today, we want to spend some time to explore the benefits of delegation and how this important practice can be used to the benefit of the institution, from both the perspective of the delegator as well as the delegate.
Delegation has many advantages. For the delegator, this practice helps him or her to gain control over his or her limited time, allowing time for attention to the bigger or more pressing issues. The time saved directly results in financial benefits for the institution as well, for ‘time is money’.
For the delegate, the benefits of this good practice are also big. First and foremost, delegation builds skills in the delegate. There is no better learning than ‘on the job learning’. Delegation gives the delegate that rare chance to learn higher jobs on the job before they even have the job. This directly feeds into a good implementation of succession planning as well. Secondly, delegation can be one of the best ways of motivating subordinate staff but only when it is done well.
We have observed a number of benefits of delegation when it is conducted appropriately. However, when delegation goes wrong, it may bear the opposite effects. Poor delegation occurs where the delegator intrudes too much into the work of the delegate and retains all the power. While delegation is transfer of authority to make decision (to some threshold) and the responsibility of conducting the delegated actions, the delegator is still accountable for the delegated work.
This means, therefore, that there is need for a careful balance between two extremes – total misalignment arising from a complete disconnect between the delegator and the delegate or disastrous confusion and conflict between the delegator and delegate arising from continuous monitoring and intruding of the delegator over the delegated work being conducted by the delegate. Both of these extremes result in frustration on the part of the delegator and the delegate, respectively.
So, what is needed for delegation to be successful? First, trust is a necessary ingredient. The delegator must trust the delegate to be capable of not just doing the delegated job but to also represent the interests of the delegator. Remember that the delegate is acting on behalf of the delegator and so, their job is not just to do a good job but to do it to the expectation or exceeding the expectation of the delegator. The delegator should be sure that the delegate will be capable of doing the delegated work. If in doubt, it is important to detail the method and techniques to be used in doing the job. For complex works, it helps to first handhold the delegate in similar works before they can be entrusted to work on their own.
For delegation to be successful, there is also need for the delegate to spend time and energy in not just doing the job but also managing the ‘delegation relationship’. The delegate needs to be constantly aware that he or she is only acting on behalf of the delegate and so their obligation is not just to do the job but to also represent the interests of the delegator. The delegator has the obligation to do the job as would be expected by the delegator. When in doubt, it is important to double check rather than gamble.
A lot of managers avoid delegation because they have been frustrated before or they fear that their responsibility will be robbed away. Today we have addressed some of the issues that should help clear such fears by learning to delegate the proper way. Good luck as you rise and shine as delegator or delegate!