Delegation is one of those skills that sounds extremely straightforward – you simply take a task you think would be more appropriate for someone else and ask them to do it. . . right?
Ineffective delegation is a barrier at the heart of many business issues. Think about some common business problems, like – your senior managers don’t have enough time, there is a lack of capability in the team, a lack of learning and development or people reporting burnout. At the heart of these issues often sits inefficiency in delegation.
The reason that some of these issues are so common is that delegation can be a surprisingly difficult skill to learn for some, and is often overlooked as part of a company’s standard training programme. This can cause issues as staff take on higher workloads and become responsible for more line reports.
Delegation can cause a natural barrier at the start of careers because you can’t move into strategic roles without it. The difficulty around it is most often felt when bridging the gap from a middle management position into senior management, where the role becomes more strategic and less task-oriented.
The number of responsibilities increases, yet people may find themselves continuing to do all of the tasks from their previous role in middle management. Learning how to delegate is essential to cope with the workload of a senior management role. Without this essential skill, people document burnout and stress due to work that is piling high. Of course, delegation is a skill at middle management as well, but working without utilising it becomes unsustainable with progression - you can’t do everything you’re responsible for the higher you go.
When we’re looking at how we delegate, the RACI tool can provide insight. RACI looks at:
- the people who are responsible for a task;
- the people who are accountable for a task;
- the people who need to be consulted around a task;
- and the people who need to stay informed around a task.
RACI can be applied to most teams in a business and can really help with efficiency, by avoiding cross-over of tasks, and can provide clarity of roles. If you are the accountable person, the task sits with you. For instance, the MD is accountable for the marketing within their organisation, but the head of the marketing department is responsible for the delivery of projects under this umbrella. Using this framework, you can ask yourself questions like, "who from my team can I delegate to?" "Is this task appropriate for this person?" "Who can I make responsible for that?". If you pass a task down to someone else, you are often still accountable, but they’re responsible for the delivery.
Now let’s look at some of the reasons people don’t delegate more often. Making someone else responsible for a task can require a lot of trust, depending on the task in question and how much is at stake if things go wrong. You would probably instinctually feel this out on a case-by-case basis.
There can also be a lot of resistance to delegate because it requires time up-front. It can feel easier when a task falls to you to just complete it because you know how to do it already. Training someone up to do the task can take time (perhaps even as long as the task itself takes to complete), and that can be off-putting. However, it’s time well-spent.
‘If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.’
It’s a worthy investment to make that will get you out of a vicious cycle of tasks and free up your time for other things.
Underutilisation of delegation is one of the most common root causes of problems for businesses. While a lot of people might have some idea of how to delegate, they often don’t know the best ways to do so because it’s not often included in standard management training. Even if you think you know how, training could still be of huge benefit. Consider this: how much impact do you think 10% of your time back could have on your work week? I would imagine quite a lot. For most people who struggle with delegation this number is easily achievable with relatively small changes to the way you work.
To find out more about effective delegation check out our Leadership Fundamentals online training course.