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• Personal assignments: Sometimes managers need to assign tasks to specific people with the intention that those people are to personally perform them. The chosen employees may have unique perspectives that no one else in the organization has; they may have unique skills that need to be brought to bear to complete the assignment quickly and accurately.
• Confidential or sensitive circumstances: Managers generally have access to mountains of confidential information such as wage and salary figures, proprietary data, and personnel assessments. For a variety of reasons, the unintended release of this information to the wrong individuals—whether within or without the organization—could be very damaging. Unless your staff has a compelling reason to know or work with the confidential or sensitive information, you should retain assignments involving these types of information yourself.
The Management Bible
WHEN DELEGATION GOES WRONG
Unfortunately, despite the best of intentions, delegation goes wrong— very wrong. How can you tell if you’ve got a problem with delegation? The secret is to keep tabs on the tasks you delegate—and the people you delegate to—by using any or all of the following techniques:
• Personal follow-up: Personally visit your employees and check their progress on a regular basis.
• Sampling: Periodically review samples of your employees’ work and check to make sure that it meets the standards you agreed to.
• Progress reports: Require regular progress reports from employees that can give you advance notice of problems and successes.
• A formalized tracking system: Create a formal system (for example, a calendar or specialized project management tracking software) to track assignments and due dates.
Sometimes your employees are going to have problems with the tasks you delegate to them. There are a variety of options for getting them and their tasks back on track:
• Increase monitoring: Devote more time monitoring the employees who are in trouble, keeping very close track of their performance.
• Counsel: Openly and frankly discuss the problems with your employees and agree on plans to correct them.
• Rescind authority: If problems can’t be resolved in a reasonable period of time, you always have the option of rescinding your employees’ authority to complete the tasks independently.
• Reassign activities: When delegation goes wrong, and if your employees just can’t accomplish their assigned tasks, reassign them to workers who are better suited to perform them successfully.
EXECUTION: GETTING THE JOB DONE
THE REAL WORLD
The essence of managing is getting work done through others. This does not mean being a workaholic or a super problem solver, but rather to find and perfect ways to leverage the investment you and your organization have in the talent that has been hired. A poor delegator dumps work on employees, often with inadequate explanation and consideration and unrealistic time frames. A good delegator frames the work and both challenges and encourages an employee to best be able to achieve the desired results. The latter manager is clear about what needs to be done, but flexible in how the employee gets the work completed, thereby allowing for that person to have a say and imprint in his or her own work. This is an important element of effective delegation. As Poor Richard's Almanac puts it, "If you ride a horse, sit close and tight. If you ride a man, sit easy and light."
It’s not enough to simply delegate a task and go away; managers must also monitor the results of the delegation to ensure that the tasks are being performed correctly and on time. We’re not suggesting that you micro-manage your employees’ every move; what we’re suggesting is that although you have delegated tasks, you are still responsible for their satisfactory completion. It’s in your interest, as well as the interest of your organization and the people within it to ensure that assigned tasks are being performed well.
Each of your employees is unique. A tight style of monitoring may work with one employee, while a loose style of monitoring may work with another. New or inexperienced employees naturally require more attention and handholding than employees who are seasoned at their jobs, and you should factor this into your monitoring style. Experienced
The Management Bible
employees who have earned high levels of trust simply don’t need the kind of day-to-day attention that less experienced employees do. In fact, experienced employees may resent a manager’s attempts to closely monitor the way in which they carry out their duties.
Here are some tips for monitoring delegation:
• Tailor your approach to the employee. If your employee works independently and is able to perform his or her job with minimal supervision on your part, establish a system of monitoring with only a few, critical checkpoints along the way. If, however, your employee needs more of your attention, create a system that incorporates several measurable milestones along the way to goal completion.