But I was just trying to help!

Delegation. It’s an old word, one we’ve heard for years and years and, for some reason, one I don’t hear much any more, though I’m not sure why. Clearly, supervisors and managers still delegate (though I’m not sure they do it any better than they ever did.)

The Problem: Henry understands that it’s part of his supervisory role to ensure his employees do their work well. He delegates tasks, and then works with the employees to ensure they do them right. He provides lots of helpful hints from his many years of experience, shows his staff the very best way to do things, and always has them run several drafts by him to make sure they’ve got the correct approach. He really likes this supervisory and mentoring role, and feels good about helping people grow in their positions.

So, he’s is shocked when one day several of his staff members ask to meet with him about a concern. It’s a difficult conversation, but they tell him they feel he doesn’t trust them to do the work, micromanages, insults them when he continually makes tiny changes in their reports “just to help them out…to make them perfect.” What to do? Though Henry was clearly well-intentioned, his staff’s perception of his ‘helping’ and ‘mentoring’ was that he was intrusive and didn’t trust them. Henry needs to change the way he delegates work.

Here are some guidelines for effective delegation:

1. Determine what you want to delegate, with clear parameters and authority, and be specific.

2. Define the outcomes you want – again, be specific.

3. Ensure the employee has the skills to do the work you are delegating.

4. Communicate that you trust the employee to do the work that’s delegated, but leave the door open for him/her to ask questions or seek additional guidance.

5. Refrain from giving unsolicited advice or guidance.

6. Refrain from redoing (or directing the employee to redo) work that meets the outcome you defined but is not done exactly the way you would have done it.

Finally, know that when you delegate work it will NEVER be done exactly the way you would have done it (it might be done better!), and that’s ok. If you want it done exactly the way you would have done it – do it yourself.  And, even if your intent is just to help, too much help is easily perceived as a message that you don’t trust your employees – a message you never want to give.  ~Daphne Schneider

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