Project Practitioners > Delegating - Just Let Go!

Delegating - Just Let Go!

By Ed Reynolds

You really can't do everything yourself, you know. That's why they made you a manager in the first place. At a minimum, you need to break for lunch, so you give your team a list of everything that needs to be done, with copious notes about how to handle every possible situation that might come up. Why? How are they ever going to learn if you keep doing it all for them?

Delegating is the hardest thing to do well. Most of us got our first management jobs because we were darn good individual contributors. We churned out the work at breakneck speed. We stayed late to handle the mundane tasks, while the meaty projects consumed our days. The quality was unimpeachable. How can anybody else possibly do the work like I do? Well, they can’t and that’s a good thing.

“A quality job” is subjective anyway. I worked for a company that was one of the first Malcolm Baldridge Award winners. Six Sigma, baby. We used our product quality as a major differentiator but we screwed up customer orders, delivered late and messed up the billing.

I knew this woman, Rachel, who managed a team of marketing people. Her personal work was impeccable and her ethics were unquestionable. Her team, however, seemed to be running in place, unproductive. Bill, a colleague of mine on Rachel’s team, was a seasoned veteran but I never got what I needed from him on schedule. Everything he did required Rachel’s approval before he could release it to me. She word-smithed all his copy, changed the graphics he used; she never let him do his job.  She handled all her employees this way. All the work needed to be done to her exacting specifications. Her employees felt smothered and Rachel was a logjam in the work flow. Bill quit and found a job where he felt trusted and appreciated.

To delegate well, you need to trust your people. Let them make “mistakes.” (Maybe they aren’t really mistakes; maybe it’s just their take on how the job should be done.) No other person can or should do a job exactly like you would do it. People need to put their mark on their work to feel accomplishment. Your job is to make sure they are right for the position, and have the training and tools they need. Then you just have to coach them and get obstacles out of their way – including yourself!

Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

Nice article Ed. For a short simple read in story format I recommend If You Want It Done Right, You Don't Have to Do It Yourself!: The Power of Effective Delegation by Genett. You can find it on amazon.

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