Pass It On

By Heather Baldwin

Ever feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day? If so, you might not be delegating enough, says Carol Ellis, author of Management Skills for New Managers (AMACOM, 2005). Many managers are hesitant to entrust tasks to subordinates for reasons ranging from concern that the task won’t be completed as well as if done by the manager, to thinking others will conclude the manager doesn’t know how to do the task. Yet delegation not only can lighten the load, it can develop subordinates who “are more capable and enthusiastic because of their delegation experience,” says Ellis.

Need some help delegating? You can start by understanding what kinds of tasks can be entrusted to others. Ellis says tasks you can delegate successfully include those that are closely related to the work employees are already doing; have clearly defined procedures and end results; are repetitive and fit into the normal work flow; enable employees to develop themselves; and are routine and necessary, such as detail work and information gathering.

Once you understand what can and can’t be passed to others, sit down and make a list of all the activities and tasks you typically do in a week or month and place them into one of three categories: eliminate, delegate or keep and prioritize. Then go through the list of tasks you have identified for delegation and identify the best person for the job.

Finally, meet with the person you have selected for each delegated task and explain what you want done, including why the person was selected, the scope of the task, expected standards and a timeline for completion. Set up periodic progress checks so you can head off problems early and praise what’s been done well. Be careful not to check in too often so the employee doesn’t feel micromanaged. Give people enough room to think of their own solutions and make their own mistakes without jeopardizing the timely, accurate completion of the project.