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The Art of Delegation: Finding the Balance

Steve McNichol. Managing Director of Se7en Services

As a business owner or leader, one of the most important skills to practice, and more importantly one of the toughest skills to do well is delegation. The best leaders seem to be surrounded by capable people, keen to take on extra projects and who are genuinely concerned by the success of their tasks. It is these people, the ones who want to excel, and who are willing to go the extra mile that will learn, grow, generate growth and key to your success, afford you extra time to focus on your own workload.

How then do the best leaders find that perilous balance of allowing team members to flourish while maintaining enough control and not being seen to be a manager who delegates everything?

  • Don’t delegate for the sake of delegation

Nobody wants to be thought of as a lazy manager. If when you hand out tasks, you are not asked further questions or for clarification, chances are that you merely doling out jobs rather than offering projects and chances for people to use their individual talents. Give people a chance and trust them.

  • Play to the teams’ strengths

Key to success in most avenues of business is understanding the strengths and weaknesses of those around you. Know what each team member is good at, how much responsibility they can reasonably manage and how much help they are likely to need assistance before handing out a project. Structured, all round development is important but removing anybody from their comfort zone without support can cause irreparable damage to confidence and an individual’s willingness to offer their services in future. Ultimately making the wrong choice could cost you more time than if you had carried out the task yourself.

  • Share and Share alike

Essential to creating environment of continuous improvement and shared knowledge is encouraging others to share not only your knowledge but the knowledge of the wider team. Have team members make notes on what they have done, and how they date it. Get them to share their problems and how they overcame any adversities. A good, up to date “how to guide” can save you hours of time and can encourage employees to learn independence, self-confidence and how to help themselves.

  • Be clear on expectations

Success rarely comes without a clear vision and a well thought-out plan. If your chosen delegate knows what is expected of them, by when and what resources and support they have available to them, they already have most of the tools required to succeed.

  • Assist but don’t hinder progress

If you are willing to delegate and have set clear expectations, imperative to nurturing the success of a project is not to “take over” and simply do the task yourself. Doing so damages morale and create an environment where people think that it is acceptable to leave tasks incomplete. Ultimately, if you are going to do the job yourself why did you delegate it in the first place?

  • Review, and give praise if it is due

Check the progress of tasks each regularly and preferably at the agreed review points set out in the plan. If a project is getting off track, steer it back, being sure not to take away the autonomy authority you gave away. Just as importantly, praise your employees if they perform well. An employee who feels well thought of will want to stay in a positive environment and will want to continue to succeed. Quite often saying “well done” and “thank you” means more than a material reward.

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