STATUS: A Full Plate … Delegate!

Time Management CourseIn today’s busy work environment with flat organizational structure, people frequently try to do too much. As you approach assignments, build some slack (extra time) into the scheduled. If the time is not needed, you will have some extra time to devote to your other #1 priority.

Steven R. Covey developed an excellent method of prioritizing activities and goals in a time management matrix.

In this matrix, Quadrant I is defined as “important and urgent.” This quadrant applies to crises, pressing problems, deadline-driven projects, meetings and preparations. According to Covey, this is where we should spend the majority of our time and effort.

Covey identified Quadrant II as “important but not urgent.” This quadrant stresses preparation, prevention, and clarification of values, planning, relationship building, empowerment and true recreation. Many urgent items lose their urgency quickly or can be delegated to an associate. Effective time managers focus on what they perceive to be important.

Quadrant III represents items that are not important but are urgent. This quadrant is characterized by interruptions, some telephone calls, some mail, some reports, some meetings and many other popular activities.

Quadrant IV is defined as not important and not urgent. This final quadrant is characterized by trivia and busywork, some telephone calls, time wasters, escape activities, irrelevant mail and excessive TV.

When a new hot item arises, check to see if it is related to your priority list. If it is not related to your #1 priority, try to delegate it or determine if you or your department should be involved at all. Before you take on any new work or projects, review your to-do list.

Managers are asked to supervise more people, take on more functions and operate on leaner budgets. Many managers claim they don’t have enough time to carry out their responsibilities. It is a commonly accepted principle among successful time managers that one should not perform a task that a subordinate can learn to do as well. The maxim in well-run organizations is to delegate as far down in the organization as you reasonably can. Only then will you be able to find time to carry out your fundamental managerial functions of planning, organizing, controlling, and motivating. One indication of ineffective delegation is evident if your workload continues to grow and you increasingly find that you just don’t have time to do the essentials.

Benefits of Delegation
The primary purpose of delegation is not to enable supervisors or managers to have more free time. The key reason is that they need time to manage so they can get the results they want and develop subordinates. The supervisor who has not learned to delegate cannot normally find time to develop promising subordinates. Team members who feel they have been given meaningful work to accomplish usually become highly motivated.

The key benefits of delegation are as follows:

1. It gives you time to complete high priority tasks and projects.
2. It increases the team members’ competence, knowledge and skill.
3. Delegation helps to identify readiness for promotion.
4. Your managerial potential is increased by training and developing others.
5. It increases job satisfaction and morale.
6. Delegation improves decision making by involving more people with different points of view.
7. Delegation also helps to relieve stress.

Barriers to Delegation
Some team leaders feel that they can do many jobs better and faster than their subordinates. Initially that may be true, but once a team member learns to do the job, you are freed of the task in the future. Some team leaders have a fear of being disliked because they may have been peers of those that they now supervise. And, it is often hard to stop doing the job that they may have spent years perfecting. Delegating unpleasant tasks is difficult for most people. The desire to be liked must be resisted in the interest of fully developing subordinates. The desire to be regarded as “one of the gang” is a common problem with newly promoted supervisors and managers because they now must assume a supervisory role over a previous peer group and may feel “caught in the middle.”

Delegation vs. Job Assignment
Delegation, unlike mere job assignments, should always include an explanation of the results to be achieved as well as the activities to be performed. The key focus should be on what must be accomplished and why. The team member should be told why they are chosen and what developmental benefits are expected. Maintenance of appropriate control is critical to effective delegation. New supervisors must realize that delegation is not the abdication of responsibility. You can retain control by check points and reports.

Reverse Delegation
Some subordinates will try to find ways to throw the “ball” back to you when you delegate an assignment. This is called “reverse delegation.” Typically this is accomplished by the subordinate doing just enough not to be considered incompetent. They will find some way to get you involved in the achievement of the task and thereby get himself or herself “off the hook.” To prevent reverse delegation, do not let the associates’ problems become your problems. Provide support and feedback but don’t take on responsibility for the problem. Delegate and measure by the results you expect and accept only completed work.

What Not to Delegate
You cannot delegate your leadership responsibilities or any personnel issues, disciplinary problems, morale problems and confidential activities. Develop a delegation record to help you retain control of the delegated assignments.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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