The art of delegation is something many managers have trouble mastering. All too often, they end up dumping instead. And, because the results of dumping are typically less-than-exceptional, many of these same managers end up pulling back the reins, refusing to let others take over on anything.
To avoid this fate, managers must first learn the difference between delegating and dumping, and adjust their behavior accordingly.
Dumping usually involves a number of telltale characteristics:
- A tight deadline
- Little or no instruction or detail regarding requirements
- Little or no support along the way
- Few, if any, progress checks along the way
Dumping is typically an act of desperation. You need something done and you don’t have the capacity for it. You want to hand it over and let someone else deal with it entirely—forget it exists until the other person returns it, complete with a bow on top.
You can see how this might not work out so well. When tasks are dumped on an employee, the chances are great that whatever he or she delivers will miss the mark in some way—and you’ll be the one fixing it. Not an effective use of time for anyone!
Delegating, on the other hand, is an act of leadership. It requires a more hands-on approach in the oversight process, but still allows freedom and flexibility for the person doing the work. Done well, delegation helps staff members grow and develop their skills—and helps managers more effectively handle their workload.
Delegating usually involves these telltale characteristics:
- A manageable deadline
- Clear instruction regarding requirements—followed by a check for understanding
- Ample support along the way
- Regular check-ins to ensure progress
Delegating inspires learning. The employee gets clear direction about the expectations regarding deliverables and is encouraged to ask questions as needed, but the manager isn’t compelled to micro-manage every detail. The more freedom afforded, the more learning will take place and the more relief the manager will feel from the lightened workload.
Ultimately, whether you’re dumping or delegating, the responsibility for the work still lands on your shoulders. By shifting your behavior and becoming a delegator rather than a dumper, the end result will be better for everyone involved.