Delegation or being the boss does not mean you know best!

If you have ever seen the tv series “undercover boss” you will probably agree with the title of this post.

Bosses come from many different places. They may be Ivy league educated, have come up through the ranks, or have beamed in from a different industry. The mere fact that you have not done the work, does not mean that you can’t lead the  function. Everyone plays their own role. You provide direction, you provide resources, you provide adequate timing and the team that works with you will figure out how to get the results and accomplish the goals as set by the company. Oh and by the way, they’ll probably tell you when something does not add up with the goals also.

One of my learning experiences was brought to me by one of my former bosses. He would assign me a project, explain the goals, the politics, the specifics and I would get really hyped up about the assignment. Next, without fail, he would proceed to say the dreaded words: “….. and here is how you have to do it”.

This one sentence was enough to completely destroy any and every creative thought I had about the assignment and it would leave me feeling frustrated.

What is the right way to get projects done by your employees and get them done the right way? We now get to the difference between giving marching orders, passing the hot potato, dumping a task and true delegation.

  • Marching orders would be like my former boss. It is the “tell and don’t expect any comment but just execute as told”. Looks like this would maybe fit in the army but probably not in a commercial enterprise.
  • Passing the hot potato looks like dumping but the issue here is that the one passing the hot potato actually knows that there is something wrong or very sensitive with this project, but still passes it on without giving all the information.
  • Dumping is the practice where a boss will ask you to take care of a project and then completely walk away from it. If you can handle it great, but more often than not you’ll need some follow up or feedback and just getting the task dumped on your plate will not get you to the right outcomes.
  • Delegation is where you assign a task or project and provide enough guidance and direction so you can be assured the job will be done right and the employee still has enough degrees of freedom to use their education, skills, experience, vision and insights to complete the project.

Here are some things to think about when you are about to delegate something:

  • Talk to your employee and listen to your employee. Delegation goes both ways, you provide the challenge, the employee accepts but you need to be both absolutely clear about the goals and the boundaries of the delegation.
  • Let them do the work, don’t micro manage, don’t interfere. You’re the boss but it does not mean you know best!
  • Provide and ask for meaningful feedback after completion of the assignment so both you and the employee learn from the experience.

There are many more rules and views on delegation but I have found the above three the most critical ones. Delegation makes you as a manager more productive and provides training and job satisfaction to the employee if done the right way.

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