Don’t Be The Manager Who Poorly Delegates

James Cash Penney, founder of J.C. Penney, said, “The surest way for an executive to kill himself is to refuse to learn how, and when, and to whom to delegate work.”

How many times have you said to yourself, “If you want something done right, do it yourself”? If your name is on the business, the reality is that its success or failure is yours and yours alone. It is clear that one individual cannot do everything. Genuine success requires a team effort. Being able to delegate is a critical factor in the success of any business.

You may not even be aware that you have a difficult time delegating. It may be evident in the productivity of the company, general morale of the staff and the work routine and personal obstacles of the manager. Fortunately, there are some indicators or symptoms of poor delegation that can warn you.

• Deadlines are frequently missed.

• “It is simpler for me to do things myself.”

• The business can’t tolerate any mistakes.

• “I’m not very good at making management decisions and prefer to concentrate on production duties.”

• “If I ask too much of my staff, they won’t like me.”

• No one seems to know who is in charge of a particular project.

• Employees are assigned tasks that they don’t understand or cannot perform.

• Good employees appear bored, fear criticism, avoid risk and some look busier than others.

• You or your managers are too busy to speak with employees.

• Plans and objectives are modified without communicating the changes to the staff.

• The business’s methods of communication are ineffective, inconsistent and often not on time.

• You personally take care of all the important projects.

• Most decisions are made under dire circumstances.

If you recognize any of the statements listed above, then Dr. Jan Yager’s book will be of particular interest. Yager is a renowned time-management expert. Here are her key observations about the process of delegating found in her book “Work Less, Do More:”

Choose what tasks you are willing to delegate. You should be using your time on the most critical tasks for the business, and the tasks that only you can do. Delegate what you can’t do, and what doesn’t interest you. For example, non-computer types should consider delegating their social media, website and SEO activities.

Pick the best person to delegate to. Listen and observe. Learn the traits, values and characteristics of those who will perform well when you delegate to them. That means give the work to people who deliver, not the people who are the least busy. This requires hiring people with the right skills, not the least expensive or friends and family.

Trust those to whom you delegate. It always starts with trust. Along with trust, you also have to give the people to whom you delegate the chance to do a job their way. Of course the work must be done well, but “your way or the highway” is not the right way.

Give clear assignments and instructions. The key is striking the right balance between explaining so much detail that the listener is insulted and not explaining enough for someone to grasp what is expected. Think back to when you were learning, when you were a neophyte.

Set a definite task-completion date and a follow-up system. Establish a specific deadline at the beginning, with milestones. In this way you can check on progress before the final deadline, without fuzzy questions like “How are you doing?”

Give public and written credit. This is the simplest step, but one of the hardest for many people to learn. It will inspire loyalty, provide real satisfaction for work done and become the basis for mentoring and performance reviews.

Delegate responsibility and authority, not just the task. Managers who fail to delegate responsibility in addition to specific tasks eventually find themselves reporting to their subordinates and doing some of the work, rather than vice-versa.

Avoid reverse delegation. Some team members try to give a task back to the manager if they don’t feel comfortable or are attempting to dodge responsibility. Don’t accept this ploy except in extreme cases. In the long run, every team member needs to learn or leave.

Once delegating has been accomplished, there has to be a method of determining the results. The following summarizes Robert B. Maddox’s ways to indicate success or failure in the process of delegating. Maddox is the author of several best-selling business-management books. He states that reasonable reporting and a review schedule must be established to determine the results of the completed task. It is vital to make sure that you are able to communicate with the individual who has completed the task in a direct and open manner. Employees must feel that they have received proper support and appreciation for a job well done. Encouraging and reinforcing the positive result will provide the vehicle for recognizing the achievement of the employee. Once you can applaud the task delegated in a successful way, the employee will receive the positive reinforcement that is essential to a successful member of the team.

What if there is a need to intervene? Undertake intervention when necessary in the most constructive fashion. A common issue is that the employee has not received clear instructions. It can’t be emphasized enough that the task must be clearly defined so the employee knows exactly what is expected so they know when the job is successfully completed. A key underlying reality is that delegating can be tough. It is equally clear that delegation is a vital part of maintaining a successful business.

As essential as delegating is, it is equally important to remember where the ultimate responsibility lies. President Harry S. Truman had a plaque on his desk in the Oval Office that read “The buck stops here.” President Truman used that statement frequently. In a speech at the National War College on December 19, 1952, Truman said, “You know, it’s easy for the Monday-morning quarterback to say what the coach should have done, after the game is over. But when the decision is up before you ~ the decision has to be made.” In his farewell address to the American people on January 15, 1953, President Truman stated, “The President ~ whoever he is ~has to decide. He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That’s his job.”

In business, be the manager who is accountable, especially if you want accountability from your staff. Take responsibility for your own decisions and that will motivate your team to be responsible for their own decisions. Good delegating is essential to insure improved productivity, employee development and a healthy work environment.

About Ellen Tuchman Rothmann

Ellen Rothmann has 30 years of experience in sales and marketing and utilizes these skills to support and facilitate seminars for Tuchman Advisory Group (TAG). Prior to her role with TAG, she was VP of Operations for Richard Wolffer’s Auctions that specialized in sports and entertainment memorabilia. As an Account Manager for K101 – a San Francisco Bay Area radio station – she worked with small businesses to build unique and profitable advertising and promotional campaigns for her clients. Growing up in the dry cleaning business, Ellen worked in numerous capacities at Tuchman Cleaners. She also held sales positions at Apparelmaster and Tuchman Cleaner’s Home Carpet and Drapery businesses. Rothmann earned her B.A. in Marketing from Indiana University. She lives in San Francisco with her husband John, they have two sons For more information contact Ellen Tuchman Rothmann, President, Tuchman Advisory Group. e-mail: