Delegating is the investing of responsibility and authority from you to your subordinates. It creates reserves for you and gives your subordinates a chance to grow. Too often, though, troubles arise because we don't have a clear understanding of how to delegate effectively. Here are some guidelines you might find helpful.
- You can't delegate your own accountability
- Even though you might have delegated something, you remain accountable for it. Your subordinate is accountable to you, but you are still accountable for whatever you delegated.
- Be prepared to rescind
- Sometimes, things don't work out. You might have delegated inappropriately, or your subordinate might fail for some reason. Since you always retain the responsibility to revisit your decision, be prepared to do so, but never rescind without cause.
- Your subordinate has final say
- Even if you believe that your delegation decisions were correct, your subordinates control their own levels of passion and commitment. They might agree to accept what you delegate, but unless they're truly committed, delegation can create trouble.
- Keep your promises
- When what you delegate is unappealing, there's a temptation to promise something in exchange. If you do promise something, keep that promise. If you can't keep the promise, don't make the promise.
- The greater the risk, the more important is delegation
- In risky situations, emergencies can occur, because when things go wrong, they sometimes go wrong in herds. To create reserves to manage these emergencies, delegate.
- Delegate fully
- When you delegate something, delegate it fully. You remain accountable for it, but it's no longer yours. Get out of the way.
- Delegate authority, not just work
- Delegating the work of a task, and not the authority to determine the manner of accomplishing it, can be demoralizing for the subordinate. This is particularly true of tasks requiring creativity, insight, or commitment.
- Never infringe delegated authority
- Infringing delegated You can't delegate
your own accountabilityauthority is demoralizing and creates problems for future delegation. If you feel the need to infringe, but you don't see a need to rescind the delegation, you're probably over the line.
- Have an inform-as-soon-as-you-know norm
- Make an agreement that each of you will inform the other as soon as you learn anything that changes the risk profile of whatever you delegated. Your subordinate agrees to alert you when trouble looms, and you agree to tell your subordinate about any enhanced risks. It's a trusting partnership.
- Establish checkpoint expectations
- Since you remain accountable for whatever you delegated, you have a right to reasonable monitoring of progress. Work out with your subordinate a mutually acceptable set of checkpoints, and stick to them, asking for status reporting neither more frequently nor less frequently than you agreed.
Most important is clear, two-way communication between you and your subordinate. Mutual understanding of your mutual agreement is essential to a successful delegation experience. OK, now. You can take it from here. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
- The "What-a-Great-Idea!" Trap
- You just made a great suggestion at a meeting, and ended up with responsibility for implementing it.
Not at all what you had in mind, but it's a trap you've fallen into before. How can you share your ideas
without risk of getting even more work to do?
- Ethical Influence: II
- When we influence others as they're making tough decisions, it's easy to enter a gray area. How can
we be certain that our influence isn't manipulation? How can we influence others ethically?
- The Politics of the Critical Path: II
- The Critical Path of a project is the sequence of dependent tasks that determine the earliest completion
date of the effort. We don't usually consider tasks that are already complete, but they, too, can experience
the unique politics of the critical path.
- That Was a Yes-or-No Question: I
- In tense situations, one person might question another. As the respondent replies, the questioner interjects,
"That was a yes-or-no question." The intent is to trap the respondent. How does this work,
and how can the respondent escape the trap?
- Power Affect
- Expressing one's organizational power to others is essential to maintaining it. Expressing power one
does not yet have is just as useful in attaining it.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming March 21: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: III
- People who behave narcissistically tend to regard themselves as special. They systematically place their own interests and welfare ahead of anyone or anything else. In this part of the series we consider how this claimed specialness affects the organization and its people. Available here and by RSS on March 21.
- And on March 28: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: IV
- Narcissistic behavior at work is more damaging than rudeness or egotism. It leads to faulty decisions that compromise organizational missions. In this part of the series we examine the effects of constant demands for attention and admiration. Available here and by RSS on March 28.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.