Delegating work, responsibility, and authority is difficult for someone running the company because it means letting others make decisions that involve spending “your money”.
However, at a minimum, you should delegate enough authority to get the work done, to allow your managers to take initiative, and to keep the operation moving.
“Let others take care of the details”
That, in a few words, is the meaning of delegating work and responsibility.
Delegation is perhaps the hardest job “chiefs” have to learn. Some never do. They insist on handling many details and work themselves into early graves. Others pay lip service to the idea but actually run a “one-man shop”. They give their managers many responsibilities but little or no authority.
How Much Authority?
Authority is the fuel that makes the machine go when you delegate work and responsibility. It poses a question: To what extent do you allow another person to make decisions that involve spending your company’s money?
At a minimum, you should delegate enough authority:
- To get the work done,
- To allow key employees to take initiative, and
- To keep things going in your absence.
To Whom Do You Delegate?
Delegation of responsibility does not mean that you say to your managers, “Here, you run the shop.” The people to whom you delegate responsibility and authority must be competent in the technical areas for which you hold them accountable. However, technical competence is not enough.
In addition, the person who fills a key management spot in the organization must either be a manager or be capable of becoming one right now. A manager’s primary job is to plan, direct, and coordinate the work of others—and to hold them accountable. They can get better—give them the management skills training you need them to have.
The manager of a department must have enough self-drive to start and keep things moving. A manager should not have to be told, for example, to make sure that employees start work on time.
A key manager should be strong-willed enough to overcome opposition when necessary and should also have enough ego to want to “look good” but not so much that they antagonize other employees.
Spell Out the Delegation
Competent people want to know for what they are being held responsible. Provide a list of specific actions that they could take on their own initiative and a list of actions where permission is required. That is a quality position description in a simple form.
Make sure that departments are coordinated when you spell out the responsibilities and authority of each key manager. Use a management position matrix to spell this out. Thus you reduce the chances of confusion as well as assuring that there is no doubt about who are responsible for specific jobs. Then, the particular key manager can take corrective action before things get out of hand.
When you manage through others, it is essential that you keep control. You do it by holding a subordinate responsible for his or her actions and checking the results of those actions—accountability.
In controlling your managers, try to strike a balance. You should not get into a key manager’s operation so closely that you stifle him or her nor should you be so far removed that you lose control of things.
You need feedback to keep yourself informed. Reports provide a way to get the right kind of feedback at the right time. You know these. They include vital driver spreadsheets, goals and action step reports, goal scorecards, and other business control documents. They can be daily, weekly, or monthly, depending on how soon you need the information. Each department head can report his or her progress, or the lack of it, in the unit of production that is appropriate for his or her activity; for example, items packed in the shipping room, sales per territory, hours of work per employee—vital drivers—can be measured and controlled—and should.
Periodic strategic execution team meetings are another way to get feedback. At these meetings, department heads can report on their activities, accomplishments, and problems. Install goals and controls throughout the organization. Insist that all managers run their departments with them.
Coaching Your Staff
For you chief, delegation does not end with good control. It involves coaching as well, because management ability is not acquired automatically. You have to teach it.
Just as important, you have to keep your managers informed just as you would be if you were doing their jobs. Part of your job is to see that they get the facts they need for making their decisions.
You should be certain that you convey your thinking when you coach your managers. Sometimes words can be inconsistent with your thoughts. Ask questions to make sure the listener understands your meanings. In other words, delegation can only be effective when you have good communications.
And above all, listen. Many chiefs get so involved in what they are saying or are going to say next, that they do not listen to the other person. In coaching a person so he or she can improve, it is important to tell why you give the instruction. When a person knows the reason, he or she is better able to perform.
Allow the Troops to do the Work
Sometimes you find yourself involved in many operational details even though you do everything that is necessary for delegating responsibility. In spite of defining authority, delegating to competent persons, spelling out the delegation, keeping control, and coaching, you are still burdened with detailed work. Why?
Usually, you have failed to do one vital thing.
“You have refused to stand back and let the wheels turn.”
If you are to make delegation work, you must allow your managers freedom to do things their way. You and the company are in trouble if you try to measure your managers by whether or not they do a particular task exactly as you would do it. They should be judged by their results—not their methods.
No two persons react exactly the same in every situation. Be prepared to see some—probably most—action taken differently from the way in which you would do it even though your policies are well defined. Of course, if a subordinate strays too far from policy, you need to bring him or her back into line. You cannot afford second-guessing.
You should also keep in mind that when a chief second-guesses managers, you risk destroying their self-confidence. If the manager does not run his or her department to your satisfaction and if his or her department to your satisfaction and if his or her shortcomings cannot be overcome, then replace that person. But when results prove his or her effectiveness, it is good practice to avoid picking at each move he or she makes.