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Delegation is at the heart of what managers do. One of the first lessons frontline managers learn is that they will be more effective and get more work done if they delegate than if they try to do everything themselves. Letting go, planning, communicating, and investing energy into developing your direct reports are all important aspects of delegating.

Delegating Isn't Always Easy

We've all been warned against micro managing, but even so, managers often find it hard to let go of control and allow other people to complete work for them. Many managers fear that if they don't do the work themselves, it won't be done correctly, or within the required time frame. Managers who manage by the seat of their pants are particularly likely to fall into the bad habit of believing that work isn't going to get done unless they do it themselves. Of course, the opposite is true. You can accomplish more by delegating than you would ever be able to on your own.

Usually, managers are promoted to a management position because they're the best at what they did in their previous position. This is another reason why some managers find it hard to let go. When you know that you are the best person to complete a particular task, it can be hard to let go and delegate instead. However, if you don't delegate your work, your direct reports will never develop to the point where they can do the task on their own.

How To Delegate Effectively

When we talk about the importance of delegating, we're essentially talking about the fundamentals of effective management. EffectiveManagersTM has distilled the fundamentals of managerial leadership into The Five Requirements of Effective Managers. Here's how to use the five requirements to delegate effectively:

1) Plan

As a manager, you need to have a plan for your department and for yourself. Without one, how would you know what to delegate? Your plan should link back to the plans of higher management and the overall strategic plan of the organization.

2) Do (Value-Added Work)

Before delegating, you need to determine what can and can't be delegated. Start by sorting tasks into value-added work and work that can be delegated. What is the work that only you, with your capabilities, in your position, can do? This value-added work is the focus of the work you should be doing. All other work should be delegated.

3) Set Context and Boundaries

Delegation is an interactive process. Share your plan and any other information you have that can set context for your direct reports' work. Also talk about boundaries, or the limits within which you expect the work to be done.

4) Delegate

Anything that can be delegated should be delegated. Delegation must be crisp, with clear statements of quality, quantity, timeliness, and the resources available to do the work.

5) Create Feedback Loops

Once you've delegated tasks, it's important to regularly check in with your direct reports. Create feedback loops to ensure that things are progressing as they should be. There are four feedback loops that you need to create and manage (your team, each direct report, your peers, and relevant community groups).

The importance of delegating can't be stressed enough. You can't do everything on your own, and when you are tasked with the work of your direct reports, your organization is robbed of your value-added work. You need to take the time to train and support your team, which does take longer than just doing the work yourself - but the benefit of investing the time and energy into developing your team is that they will then be able to work independently of you. Since they're coming at the work from a different perspective, they may even have insights that you didn't have.

WRITTEN BY

Larry Hart

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