delegation

Written by Kishor Kumar Dash, alumnus of IBS Hyderabad (Class of 2004).

“Delegation” a quite commonly used jargon in professional environment. When you go to your line manager to discuss about how overloadedand stressed you are because of having lots of task in your plate, the simple answer normally you get for this problem is “Delegate”. Delegation a simple word or skill or concept or management style (whatever you may call it) though sounds a very easy solution provided by your manager but this could in reality make or break your head. If applied effectively the benefit you could get is immense and some very small mistakes in delegating could make your life miserable.

Going back to our earlier example in the previous blog on “Multitasking vs. Single-minded focus – continued”, “Effective Delegation” is certainly the perfect solution of addressing your catch 22 situation. For a moment let’s assume you have two brilliant resources who are as good as you are in understanding the essential requirement for your client presentation and also they are quite capable of handling the client issue. What an awesome situation you are in as a Manager? As an obvious choice you would assign the Presentation task to one of your resources and the client issue to the other one. Provide your inputs in between, monitor the progress and and finally have both the assignments reviewed by you. The outcome, you are pretty much prepared for an important presentation and also you made your existing client very happy by providing a very quick resolution to the issue. This is brilliant, isn’t it? Don’t you think this to be a very simple solution for a very complex situation, we were discussing earlier which was so difficult to address and could have serious impact on you as a professional?

The myths, delegation is quite simple and you can invariably identify someone and then do a little bit of monitoring and review which would ensure that your work is done with reasonable quality. This approach which is widely adopted by several professionals, certainly does manage to get the work done for one or few instances, but it lacks the objective and also suffers from lots of limitations (we will discuss later in detail).

However the reality is, this could be made simple but it would not come so easily and certainly a price tag is attached to it. The Price is nothing but the time and effort you need to put to build the team around you who is at least as good as you are, if not better than you. The essence is, to make the delegation effective you need to have (rather build) resources that can be reasonable back up for you (Assuming you are extremely good as a manager/Professional J).

For me delegation is just NOT a finished product/solution rather this is a process to build a finished product/solution. Let me explain a bit further, in my understanding just sharing your responsibilities among two of your capable resources, is NOT necessarily a perfect example of effective delegation. Rather making them capable enough as your back up is Delegation and this does NOT happen overnight, this is a continuous process which involves several steps (will discuss in the later part) to actually build your so called capable resources.

I think we are now fairly clear on what is delegation and its importance for professionals. Then the question comes why people are NOT so comfortable with Delegation which makes their life so easy? One thing is certain that to make your delegation effective you require putting lot of upfront efforts, for which most people would obviously not be very keen on. Some people also do get afraid of losing the importance they used to enjoy as a key resource if they create a good back up for themselves by delegation. Trust me this is also one of the most important factors of not initiating the process of building skilled & capable resources around you. All these concerns can be addressed by making people realize the long term benefit everyone could be enjoying as a result of this whole process of effective delegation.I would be extremely happy if I can contribute a bit through this article on addressing the major bottlenecks and making people see the long term benefit of delegation.

This whole process of Delegation has to go through several steps starting with identifying resources for delegation, identifying the task to be delegated, training, grooming & mentoring, monitoring and closing.

When you start the process of delegation, the very first obvious question you would face is “Which task/activity you can delegate?”.  There are several tasks at your plate, but you cannot just pick up any task that could be delegated. This step needs a fair amount of analysis by addressing the below questions.

– Whether the task is confidential and is not supposed to be shared with anyone?

– Do you really feel there is someone capable of doing the task?

– Whether the task is recurring or not?

– How important is the task and would you be able to take a risk in terms of quality of outcome?

– Would you be able to afford time on mentoring and training the resource?

– Is the task, if given to the resource would add any value to him/her?

– Whether you are going to see any long term benefit for the team, you and the resource with this delegation?

These are few of the many questions you might need to address before you finally select the task to be delegated.

Once you select the task then the next obvious question is “who is the resource?”. Though in quite a few occasions you would already have someone in your mind when you start shortlisting the task you need to delegate. However it is worth discussing the below factors/questions before you finalize the resource.

– Who are the resources you think could be able to take up the task?

– Is the resource (s) really capable of taking up the additional responsibility?

– Was she exposed to the similar kind of task earlier during her current or previous roles?

– Did she possess the basic level of understanding, knowledge and skill set to take up the task?

– What is the bandwidth available with the resource?

– What would be impact on her current/regular tasks assigned to her?

– Would this demand a significant reallocation of tasks within the team?

– Does it by any means supports to meet the long term objective of her career aspirations?

These are few of the many questions you have to address before you select the resource for the task to be delegated. Though you might get favorable response from all or most of these questions still that would not be sufficient enough in identifying the perfect resource. The reason being, the most important question is still not answered, i.e., whether the resource would really be excited to take up this additional responsibility?The resource might be extremely capable and have everything within her to take up the additional responsibility/task, but if she is not excited enough for this, I am sure the outcome of delegation would not be encouraging. Hence we need to be very careful and need to see the bigger picture by taking a combination of potential & willingness of the individual and the alignment of the long term perspective of both the individual and off course of the organization.

Identifying the right resource and allocating the task to the individual is not the end of the identification process. One more important step is clear communication with the resource. I have seen people complaining on several things post to agreeing to take up an additional responsibility. She keeps on complaining like,she is unnecessarily given more work, she is doing a favor for her manager, her manager doesn’t carry his responsibility rather he just passes on his work to others, she is overburdened etc. Also some of them get extremely stressed as they think “can I deliver this task effectively?”.

Before these things come into her mind you need to have a clear communication with her making her understand the rationale behind this delegation, why she is chosen for the same (this would make her feel important), how you would still be involved and what kind of support you would keep on providing (this would add a lot to her confidence level), how this would help her building knowledge and other skill set and most importantly what is the long term benefit she can expect if she does this well. In addition you also need to ensure that the resource is not overburdened, either by sharing some of her tasks with her colleagues or delegating few of her tasks to her subordinates (this would create a chain of delegation process).

With this we are done with the most important and complex part of delegation. Then the process involves training, supporting, grooming &mentoring, motivating, monitoring and tracking till the end. All these steps overlap each other and more or less goes hand on hand.

Let us discuss the key points we need to focus on now to make the delegation very effective.

– Make sure that the person understands the task properly from the very beginning. There should not be any ambiguity and all the necessary information should be shared. (e.g., If you are asking someone to prepare the final client presentation then brief on the background and also pass on all the relevant communication you would have used to prepare the same)

– Define and elaborate the desired outcome of the task very clearly. (e.g., for the client presentation provide a clear map of what are the important factors needed to be included)

– Make her understand the importance of the task and its impact if something goes wrong. (e.g., make her aware that the quality/content of this presentation could make or break the deal for company)

– Set the responsibility and accountability very clearly without impacting her confidence level.

– Define the key milestones and monitor the progress at various milestones at the same time don’t involve yourself into micro management. This might irritate her, at the same time this could impact the creativity she might bring in.

– Ensure that the person is aware of her organizational limitations she needs to adhere to. (e.g., as officially you are the owner of the project/task, she should not reach to some department/ person directly which might not be taken positively by others).

– Do not wait till the end for sharing your observation and feedback. Provide your feedback and observations as and when you come across.

– Keep on motivating and provide her the comfort level that you are always reachable for any query and make her fell that they enjoy your full confidence.

– If the job is well done then give the full credit of the task to her. If the job is not satisfactory then you should also share the accountability equally. Have a very thorough discussion and identify the key learning’s.

If you follow all these steps very diligently I am sure you will get the desired outcome (at times more than desired) in 9 out of 10 cases. As we all know it is easier said than done, it is certainly not an easy thing to follow all the steps to the perfection. At initial stages most of us don’t enjoy the full success of delegation as it is certainly a tricky skill to become a master of. But failure in delegation in certain instances should not stop us indulging in delegation. We must take away the learning’s from our mistakes and should give our best to master this skill. Once we get a strong hold of this, the outcome is certainly immense which we all know.

These days’ successful corporate leaders have certainly mastered this skill and use the same very effectively.  A Leader off course uses delegation and also inspires his teams to use this effectively which ultimately gets implemented at various level across the board. This not only help him grow but also make his team, segment, business grow. However one of the most important contribution of “Effective Delegation” which most of us do NOT realize at the outset is “This creates a pool of professionals providing back up for each other, making the life of HR easier in succession and attrition management and building a sustainable human capital with skilled and talented professionals which ultimately creates value for all the stake holders of the Company”.

There is still a different school of thought against building so much talents around could make your life difficult in managing their expectations and leading to lots of attrition.  However, I completely disagree with this and would like to cite the example of ICICI and K V Kamath which is considered to be one of the biggest ever success story in the Indian corporate world on delegation, mentoring and creating a pool of talented professionals. We all know finally ChandaKochhar became the successor of KVK and what a successful stint she is having till date. Though few of the extremely talented professionals from the team KVK built around, are not serving ICICI now but they are certainly great assets to the Indian corporates and currently heading other Institutions like JPM India (KalpanaMorparia), Axis Bank (Shikha Sharma), and Future Capital (V Vaidyanathan) etc.

To conclude “Effective Delegation” not only contributes to growth of an Individual, Team, Segment, Business, Corporates and Stake holders but it also has a significant contribution on the  growth of the Industry as a whole.

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