When we ask people to articulate what their ideal boss would be, we usually get a standard response: “Someone who sets me free and gives me a lot of rope.” But when you ask the same person which boss that they learned the most from, it is never the ideal manager they describe. It’s typically the hands-on taskmaster who drove them hard. Neither answer is absolutely correct, but it does help to illustrate the point that teaching people how to assign work and follow up can have transformative developmental outcomes.
We are all busy executives and we need things done yesterday, so, when we need the next thing done, it typically involves calling the person who has delivered for us before and telling them, “I need X by Tuesday, go figure it out.” It’s usually not much more than this, and, because our go-to people are high-performing and smart, they typically figure it out by asking you a few questions and filling in the gaps themselves.
What you just did, however, is called “dumping.” Dumping is a way to avoid assigning work by delegating. And because we only take the time to explain to and work with the low performers (because they “don’t get it”), it is the higher performers we end up dumping work on. Delegation is actually a sophisticated management tool that few people use effectively, and, often, the actual beneficiaries of proper delegation are the lowest performing employees!
- Assign the work
- Check for understanding (verbally or by email)
- Establish metrics or measurements
- Check-in to ensure that things are on track
Assigning work in this manner requires organization, but it allows you to clearly define what the successful completion of the project looks like, and, as a result, saves you significant time on the back end. It’s much more difficult and time-consuming to correct an employee’s work because your instructions were not clear upfront!
What is lost by failing to delegate is the opportunity to use your experience to help your employees grow and learn. Figuring it out on their own is one way for employees to learn, but it does not allow you to teach and share your own wisdom.
Build Tension Into The System
Delegating only takes a few extra minutes, and it allows you to define and assign work, which takes out much of the guess work and allows people to be much more effective and efficient. It also allows you to build “tension” into the system because you can say you want to see a draft or have a project review by “X” date. This system allows you to better review and manage work and not micro-manage. By not micro-managing, you’ll find your employees will respond better to you and you won’t have to swoop in on an assignment at the last minute to “get it right.”
The Impact of Delegating the Right Way
Teaching managers to take the few extra minutes to delegate and demonstrating the value they get from passing on their own learned experience has massive impact on productivity and the management process. It also creates an environment where people do not have to simply learn by doing, but get the accelerated learning opportunity of having a manager share what they’ve learned through their experiences. This starts when you take the time to assign work properly, and stop dumping on your employees!