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  • Andrew Blench

The Art of Delegation


The Art of Delegation – sometimes as a manager we convince ourselves that we have to labour on under a massive unmanageable personal workload because ‘there’s no one here I can delegate tasks to – right?’ I would say ‘is that a fact or a belief?’ Is this an assumption you have made or a conclusion you have reached after making enquiries of those who work with you and for you? If it’s a fact then you may have to look for other ways to make your workload more manageable. But why not try a simple exercise to test your belief. Take a sheet of A4 paper (you could do this online of course) create a 4 column table. In the first column write on each row the name of someone you relate to in the work context. Direct reports, peers, your managers names can appear here. Head up the next 3 columns with the words ‘capacity’, ‘capability’ and ‘motivation’. Now go back and think about each of the names you have written down. For capacity ask the question ‘if I were able to delegate tasks to this person would they have the capacity (e.g. time/hours) to accommodate my task?’ For capability ask the question ‘does this person have the skills set they need to take on my tasks?’ and for ‘motivation’ the even more important question is ‘assuming they have the capacity and the capability what is their overall attitude to taking on tasks?’ To my shame when I did this exercise in my last role using the names of my 24 direct reports It made me realise that I didn’t know my staff half as well as I thought I did! I had ignored the fact that people had a life before they started working for us and had skills and experience from other roles which they were not using in the current one. I had assumed that they wouldn’t have the capacity to take on occasional tasks, but when I approached them they were pleased that I had asked and had been looking for something to add some variety to their day. But even if the answers to the first two areas of enquiry draws a blank is that the end of it? Often our direct reports see how overwhelmed we are with work and may want to help their boss deal with some of their stresses. So ask yourself the question can capacity be created with a bit of creative realignment of people’s tasks? Can the capability be developed in those who have the capacity but lack the skills? But it’s not that straightforward, you might say, as I can see people on this list with the capacity and skillset but with (what I think is) a really poor attitude to taking on anything which might be a deviation from their job description!! In other words the motivation or attitude isn’t good. I can guarantee that this little exercise has its frustrations and will possible bring the focus to bear on longer term people management issues! But don’t despair because in my experience it also has the potential to test some of my beliefs and release me from some of my tasks. So you have completed your grid and started to test out some of your assumptions. As well as creating some capacity for you it will also develop your knowledge of your team. But be careful where you leave your list!!

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