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Revisiting our understanding of delegation


Revisiting our understanding of delegation

It’s easy to take on all the responsibility and shoulder the burden, but it ends up harming everyone when managers can’t delegate

You may be surprised to learn that the average adult makes 35,000 decisions per day. Let’s keep this in mind as we explore a decision-making process called ‘delegation’. Perhaps if we refamiliarize ourselves with this term as an art, science and necessary component of self, we can positively impact our own success and that of the organizations for whom we work.

Let’s face it. You’re a collaborator, capable of wearing a lot of hats. With expectations and a sense of urgency to complete tasks and projects, sometimes steps that need to be taken just seem easier to do on your own. You’re good at it, better than most. People’s plates are full and you don’t want to impose on anyone’s time. You hold yourself accountable and understand many aspects of the business (and privately, you accomplish more than most realize).

If the above resonates with you, then you’re in terrific company; however, you may be unknowingly marginalizing both yourself and others. This type of internal decision-making seems to be informed by your own competence and a sense of empathy for those with whom you work. You likely have a big heart. The problem is, one of the greatest challenges for leaders is the appropriate practice of delegation, an important form of decision-making. When not done well, both your leadership and the good work of others can become compromised.

Nobody wants to be compromised

So, why is it that we refer to delegation as an art? Is it something creative? Yes. Is it something that we behaviorally express and attribute our own meaning to? Yes. However, if we look at this art within the framework of decision-making, it might be a good idea to reframe our understanding and the associated meaning it holds in our mind’s eye.

The art refers to how the process of delegation is determined and deployed. You’re customizing decisions, in addition to whom and how these decisions will be communicated.

Successful delegation means you will need to be selective while demonstrating precision. Each task has its own unique set of objectives and considerations. It’s not as easy as it may appear, requiring a lot of practice to develop, strengthen and refine the appropriate reasoning and communication skills necessary to get the job done.

Delegation is far from arbitrary

Specifically, you will need to consider who is the best person for the task, while also taking into consideration how the task can support that person’s development. If you miss this important moment and take the task on for yourself, you may unknowingly be hijacking an opportunity to support another’s growth, while simultaneously marginalizing their value. Keep in mind, this doesn’t go unnoticed, but it may remain unspoken.

The science of delegation has taught us that delegation, when done well, can result in feelings of psychological empowerment, a motivational concept related to one’s sense of self. When done well, delegation heightens internal beliefs about capabilities and capacity to act in the ways necessary to reach specific goals. This concept is otherwise known as self-efficacy, which happens to be an underlying component of motivation.

To differentiate, self-efficacy is the belief in oneself; whereas, motivation is the desire to act. Taken together as a whole, delegation helps promote another’s psychological wellbeing while strengthening their abilities to practice and/or develop new sets of skills.

Therefore, delegation is a developmental tool to help you empower members of your team, providing them with a testimonial to their value, in addition to challenging them to strengthen their competencies.

Employees who feel empowered and as if their contributions matter are more likely to persist. Research confirms. When employees feel empowered at work, they demonstrate enhanced job performance, job satisfaction and commitment to the organization.

Let’s weave together the fabric of delegation by connecting the art, science, and self/ other care. It’s critical that delegation isn’t enacted solely as a means to make our lives easier. This would only support our inner narratives, which have a tendency to tell us either, ‘that’s just not my job’, ‘I can do it better’ or, ‘I really don’t want to burden anyone’.

If we listen to our automatic thoughts that come with delegation, they may tend to be distorted because they serve the purpose of helping us avoid some level of discomfort. Let it go. Watch those thoughts fly away and replace them with your belief in the capabilities of others. Act as a mirror reflecting your faith in them and offer to be there as a supportive resource.

It all begins with you

At the forefront of self-care is having the capacity to self-observe. When you think about handing off something to another, it’s of critical importance that you visit your intentions. Let go of the internal pressure to just get it done the ‘right’ or ‘best’ way.

Good enough is good enough

There is so much to accomplish each and every day. If you’re not at your best, no one else will be. Delegation is an important attribute of a great leader. When power and authority are delegated to employees, they will likely thrive in the freedom to work autonomously and will benefit from a sense of accomplishment. It’s a win-win.

Always remember, when you believe in others, they believe in themselves.

Key takeaways for effective delegating

  • Many workers and managers feel comfortable taking on a lot of deadlines and workloads all by themselves.
  • This usually happens because the individual feels as if their competency makes the job easy for them to do properly, or they do not wish to burden their colleagues.
  • While their intentions are often positive, this approach to managing work can create problems both for the individual and their colleagues in the long-run and can affect outcomes.
  • Delegation isn’t as simple as it seems, it requires an understanding of people’s competencies and strong communication skills to get decisions across.
  • It’s important to consider how delegating a certain task can help a person develop, not just whether or not they are capable of carrying out the task.
  • When delegated tasks are successfully completed, it creates a feeling of psychological empowerment and one’s belief in themselves
  • Delegation is more than a system by which to finish a job, it’s how people can grow, learn and be confident in themselves.
  • Employees who feel empowered demonstrate enhanced job performance, job satisfaction and commitment to the organization.
  • Managers need to consider why they want to delegate a certain task. ..
  • Ultimately, employees want to feel empowered and as if they’re making a contribution to the organization, and proper delegation allows them to feel valued, and have a sense of accomplishment.

The author

John Kutac is the CEO of Compatmatch, a data-driven business that can use algorithms and data to connect people, from roommates to mentors and mentees.

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