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Do or Delegate

One of the basics of Modern Management 101 is to learn how to delegate and then do it as often as you can. At least thatís the theory. In the real world managers are trying desperately to put this theory into practice but we canít seem to find anyone who will actually do what we want. People donít really want to follow our directions but want to set out on their own. Maybe itís the generational changes in todayís workplace or maybe we are just not doing it right but many managers are wondering if delegation really is a failed management strategy.

Brian W Pascal
We may not have any choice about whether to continue on with delegation as a major management tool because we just donít have the time to carry out all of the responsibilities that have been assigned to the management category, but it may be worthwhile to reexamine delegation before we discard what should be a valuable management resource.

First of all delegation comes from Latin ďde+legareĒ which translates as to send. But we all know that delegating really means letting go. We may send or assign a task to someone but we are actually letting go of our responsibility for it. Thatís a difficult thing to do for many managers and there are a dozen reasons why we may not feel comfortable in delegating a particular task. Usually they relate to the person or persons that we are considering for delegation and the concerns range from whether the person is qualified, has time to do it, or the biggie: whether or not you can trust the person to carry the duty out.

We may not be able to fix the particular problem with those whom we are trying to delegate to, but we may be able to examine and amend our own behaviour as delegators. If our directions are not as clear as they should be then itís no wonder that the end product is less than ideal. And if we change our minds on what we would like from task to task or project to project then it shouldnít be surprising that we end up with uneven results.

But most of us fail at the important task of delegating because we either think we can do the job better ourselves or because we not believe that others will live up to our standards. On the first point we are probably correct. As managers we have probably done a similar task many times in the past and we know what works and what will likely screw up. We also have a clear vision of what we want to see done because we have spent at least some time in thinking about or conceiving the project that needs to happen.

In regards to the second point, our lack of faith in others, we may have good reasons to believe that the person who messed up the last job might well do the same again. But part of our job as managers is to give our staff one, two, or more opportunities to succeed. That might involve them making mistakes along the way but unless we let them try then not only will they never learn but we will be stuck with doing the task ourselves into eternity. A little bit of this may also involve an innate belief that some of us hold that ďthey will just not get itĒ. Once again, this may be true, but if we do not believe that they will succeed they will soon get the message that we believe they will fail and that belief can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

This can also lead to one of the biggest failings in delegation that a manager can do. That is to delegate the work to someone but to jump back in and take it back if you donít think that the person is on the right track or if their progress is less than desired in the time that you have allotted. This may be absolutely necessary in some situations but in most cases it shows a lack of confidence that many employees will never recover from. It may take a lot of patience and self control to let a delegated project play itself out but if the manager can he or she just might find that they have found another resource to delegate to in the future.

Delegation is not an easy part of a managerís job but given todayís workload it is almost an essential one. It will take time, effort and a lot of patience to master but unless you want to handle everything yourself you just may not have any choice. It may be a flawed management strategy but until someone comes up with a better one itís the best we have.


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