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The dangers of delegating

UNLESS you are a control freak with a death wish to perish from overtiredness chasing business success -- there are some tasks that you will have to delegate. To the best of my knowledge the Almighty Himself took seven days to complete His monumental job. You, mere mortal cannot expect to do it all and the day only has so many hours and no more.

Good delegation, that is, properly assigning or allocating tasks, saves you time, develops your employees' skills, helps you to groom a successor, and can be a motivating factor for your staff. The difficulty in delegating lies in making sure that the task is properly handled and not slap-dashed to death. The opposite of delegation is micro-management.

I, myself, have worked with my fair share of micro-managers and they will drive you to run shrieking from the room when they come around with their massive clip-boards to 'check-off' areas for which you were never ever assigned. God save us all from these dotters of all the 'I's and crossers of all the 't's. Yes, they seem to be mainly women (forgive me my gender) destined to grow old gracefully with a houseful of cats.

But I understand and appreciate their pernickety. Have you ever assigned someone a task and when they came back to deliver (looking as pleased as punch) the outcome was not even remotely close to your instructions? What went horribly wrong? Is it that unbeknownst to you, your assignee spoke an alien Klingon tongue (you know the bumpy-headed aliens from Star Trek?) or maybe it was you? Whatever it was he heard you say, order five thousand red pens when you said make sure NOT to order so many red pens. There are certain tricks in trade in successfully 'farming out' various aspects of a job to ensure that the tasks are properly implemented. The key which underpins successful delegation is effective communication.

The right man for the job: Many supervisors make the mistake of giving the wrong person a particular task to complete. Now, this can reflect particularly badly on you, the manager, because it possibly means that either you do not know or have badly misjudged the abilities of your staff. Say for example, you are keen on having a project delivered in record time with a minimum spend. It might not be the best idea to put someone on this job who does not have a track record of delivering. Maybe John Thomas hates the accounting aspect of the project, preferring to work with the implementation of the ideas or maybe he likes to work 'on the front page'. Have you read him correctly?

Does the person you have entrusted with the assignment have the zeal and passion for his task or will he 're-delegate' his delegated duties and stand hands folded in the wings to take the praises when or if the job is successfully completed. Delegation is not about an abdication of responsibilities. If you are the lead on a project you have to make sure you are feeling the pulse of the team members. Some people are skilful at hiding from responsibilities. They know how to delegate to everybody but themselves. When the crap hits the fan they are no where around but if all goes well you will see them emerging from the shadows wiping off imaginary beads of sweat from their 'hard-working' brows. True posers.

Tell me exactly what to do: If your delegation instructions to the person carrying out the tasks are fuzzy and unclear: maybe you yourself really do not fully understand what is required of the job. The one thing I know for sure about communication is GI-GO (Garbage In -- Garbage Out). Communicate your instructions SMART-ly: Specific Measurable Agreed Realistic and Time bound. Don't expect to get the sweet smell of roses emanating from your team if you have not properly and accurately communicated with the team what is specifically required of them, their deadlines and a complete (as far as you can) vision of the outcome. Do not play politics and leak only elements of the plan that you deem they should have on a 'need to know basis'. It might very well backfire on you because in the face of failure they can claim ignorance of the facts. Information is power and boy do some of us love to 'wife up' project knowledge only sharing it in drips and dregs. Unless your project has the elements of a highly involved Secret Service mission and you are POTUS (President of the United States) do share as much as possible with your team members. Do it in writing as well as via face-to-face discussions. Apart from leading very cluttered and busy lives, some people suffer very regularly from temporary amnesia in the face of what their deliverables for a project are so make sure that there is a credible written trail of 'Things-To-Do'.

Effective communication also means giving your teammates the benefit of feedback on the overall venture. Nothing is more bothersome than when people are given, as well as the proverbial 'basket to carry water', insufficient information on their progress or lack thereof. Even if I am going to destination Nowhere with you, at some point along the way, you can bet your bottom dollar that I am going to ask "are we there yet?" Of course, not all jobs can be delegated but those that can be certainly eases the work pressure from one or two persons. Make your life easier by incorporating effective communication if you have to delegate tasks.


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