The Art of Delegation

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"The Art of Delegation" by Gerard M Blair (IEE Engineering Management Journal) starts out pointing that few has been able to truly understand what delegation means accurately. What is perhaps more troubling is that the word "delegation" means different things to different people. Therefore, it is the aim of this article to explore the true meaning of delegation. Then Blair continues to offer tips on the delegation skills that would benefit managers, team members and organization as a whole.

Delegation should be seen by a manager as an opportunity rather something to be feared or fought. It is an opportunity to help grow new talent while allowing them to better focus on the management process. Yet many managers rebel against delegating work, "despite the earnest resolve to do more delegation, a manager often finds it difficult to give an employee a job that he thinks he can do better" (Pollock, 2000).

After all, it probably took years of their own hard work and attention to detail that helped get them where they are.

Effective delegation will benefit all of the parties involved: the manager, the team member performing the task or project, and the organization. Successful delegation of work is much more involved than "here is what I need, go do it". It requires an attention to the details of the task and a nurturing attitude towards the person who will be handling the task. The first step in the process is to define the details and goals of the task to be delegated. By providing thorough details of the project and its goals to the associate the manager is assuring all needs of the task will be met. Without this understanding the team member could only complete very basic steps of the task and would be unable to offer any additional thoughts or perspectives. Only by fully engaging the team member will he or she grow from the experience of the work.

The manager should also give team member an opportunity to provide his or her own input on ways to tackle the problem, possibly discovering an approach not previously identified. Essential to success will be empowering team members with the authority, time, and resources necessary to perform the task. Team members should feel confident that the manager fully trust's decisions the decisions they make and will stand behind them. They should have access to any information previously gathered so time is not spent duplicating work already done. They should also feel comfortable in contacting other associates or managers to gather additional needs and information for the project.

The manager should also meet with team members during the project and be open and available to offer direction, encouragement, or answer questions. Managers should also keep an open line of communication throughout the entire process.

Everybody wins with effective delegation. Delegation allows managers to achieve more. Probably one of the most significant benefits that managers can achieve is productivity. Through the proper selection, assignment, and coordination of tasks, resources can be mobilized to achieve more than would have been individually possible. Delegation allows time for managerial activities such as project planning, monitoring team members, and handling personnel problems as they arise. Using delegation, managers can focus on doing a few tasks well rather than too many tasks poorly. Learning delegation skills increase chances for career advancement. If a manager doesn't have people in place who are trained to handle responsibilities, he or she will be shackled to one area and won't be considered for promotion.

Team members are more highly motivated with effective delegation. Proper delegation develops team members' skills. Failure to effectively delegate deprives team members of opportunities to improve their skills and assume greater responsibility. Team members realize that they are not learning and gaining the experience they could. As a result, they may leave the firm for more challenging and supportive environments. A routine task for a manager is often a growth opportunity for a team member. Delegating a wide variety of assignments not only serves to train team members, it allows for backup personnel in times of emergency or termination of other employees. When others are well versed in handling the responsibilities of different areas, a manager attain maximum flexibility and ensure that the project will not be at a standstill in his absence.

Delegation increases team member's involvement. Proper delegation encourages team members to understand and influence the work the department does. It allows team members a chance to incorporate their values in the workplace and, in many cases, to work on activities that especially interest them. Increasing team member's involvement in the workplace increases their enthusiasm and initiative. As with managers, a team member who receives extensive delegation will be ready and able to advance to new positions. In this regard, delegation serves both to train and to test an employee.

If both managers and team members benefit from delegation, it follows that the organization as a whole benefits. When delegating tasks according to the skills and abilities of each member of the work group, the department as a whole is likely to produce a higher level of work. Work will also be completed more efficiently. Delegation helps make the best use of available human resources and achieve the highest possible rate of productivity. In addition, it allows new ideas, viewpoints, and suggestions to flourish. Effective delegation makes for faster and more effective decision making. An organization is most responsive to change in the environment when decisions are made by those individuals closest to the problems; that is, responsibility and decision making are pushed further down in an organization. Individuals closest to the problem have the most information on which to base an intelligent decision. Decision making can be achieved more expediently through delegation, thus allowing the organization to be more responsive and hence more competitive. When team members participate in decision making there is an increase in employee motivation, morale, and job performance. The greater the employee participation, the greater the employee commitment to the job and the organization.

In conclusion, delegation can be a most effective tool for not only allowing a manager to better focus on their managerial functions but also to help grow associates individual skills and increase the talent base for the organization. A manager who can learn to effectively delegate work is better able to focus on the leadership he or she has been entrusted with. They also show they have the confidence to develop talent without fearing for their own position. For the associate receiving the delegated work it is an opportunity to learn new skills and to show the organization they have the ability to handle additional responsibilities. Finally, the organization benefits by having its managers focusing on their goals and associates being developed internally. Engaged associates will continue to offer more to the organization and are less likely to leave for opportunities elsewhere.

ReferencesBlair, G.M. (n.d.). The Art of Delegation. Retrieved Feb 11, 2009, from, T. (2000). Common Delegation Pitfalls. Automotive Manufacturing &Production. Retrieved Feb 10, 2009, from Apollo Library Info Trac One Filedatabase.