“Could you just do this for me” is not delegation.

I’m not going to give that a name. Sometimes it’s fine and sometimes it’s not okay to ask that.  Sometimes you don’t mind and sometimes you do. Any number of factors, like your relationship, how many times you’ve asked before and so on will dictate your reaction to both asking and being asked to do something. But, however you look at it, that is not delegation.

If you were developing a new manager how far up the priority list would you put learning the skill of delegation?

Delegation is the No 1 skill that you must master if you want to master management.

If you have a team, then the wheels that are going to keep that team moving forward will be oiled by your skill at delegation and if you are a lone wolf then the techniques that are required for an effective delegation will be the same. You just miss out the “Can you do this for me?” bit

That bit is the smallest part of an effective delegation but it’s often the only part that takes place.

That is the problem with the skill of delegation. There is a great deal to it. As a result, finding the time to get to grips with it so that it serves you well, making it a priority is a problem.

To delegate well you need to be:

  • A good planner, with an eye to the bigger picture and the detail.
  • You need to have objective setting nailed.
  • You need to be able to communicate.
  • You need to be a great listener as well as being persuasive.
  • You must have know what everyone is great at and what they need to work on.
  • You must understand their motivations.
  • You need to know what they are lacking in confidence about and vice versa.
  • You need to be open minded as well as being focused on achieving the objective.
  • You have to trust, but you have to support.
  • You have to monitor performance.
  • You must get the skill of feedback in the bag.
  • You may well need team building skills as well.
  • If that’s not enough you also need to have access to resources.
  • and above all you must be strong on your time management.

Have I missed anything? (please comment!)

In short you need all the skills of being a great manager to pull this one thing off and if you have those skills then you need to remember to bring them all together for effective delegation

It takes time to master the skills and any manager must master them to be truly effective and you need to do it from Day one. 

Chambers dictionary defines delegation as.

delegation noun 1 a group of delegates. 2 the act of delegating or the state of being delegated. ETYMOLOGY: 17c.

Don’t you just love a dictionary definition that uses the one word that you are trying to understand so to delegate is:

delegate verb (delegateddelegating1 to give (part of one’s work, power, etc.) to someone else. 2 to send or name someone as a representative, as the one to do a job, etc. noun someone chosen to be the representative for another person or group of people e.g. at a conference or meeting. delegable adjETYMOLOGY: 14c: from Latin delegate, delegatum, from de away + legare to send as ambassador.

And that’s the problem. It’s that word ‘give’ or ‘send’ in the definition. It implies that this is a one-way process. And it is, but the direction is the other way. The implication is that the delegation is about the person doing it for you, but the reality is to be effective at delegating that you have to flip mind-set the other way around. To delegate well you must adopt the mind-set that you are the one doing the serving.

If you have an organisation chart, whether on paper or in your mind, the manager is at the top with the cascade down to the junior members of the team. The first thing you must do to be effective delegator is to flip it. You need to focus on what you can do for the person you are delegating to and not what they can do for you.

Effective delegation starts with the mind-set of “what can I do to make sure that they can do this?”. 

And that means planning and asking and listening and reviewing and monitoring and giving feedback and playing to people strengths and developing them and providing them with whatever they need to do a great job. ‘Can you do this for me’ doesn’t cut it. 

Bridget Marchi is a learning and development consultant, executive coach and mediator. With over 25 year’s experience in publishing and online fashion she is passionate about working with people to develop strong foundation skills that will support them through their career. Whilst she has extensive experience of delivering classroom style she now offers online learning options with The Time Management ToolBox and Steps to Success, a self-coaching programme for long term success (click the link to get the early bird offer of just £20 – less than half price). She has also published The Management Jigsaw, a management induction course in a book. www.whatdoesamanagerdo.com