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January 18th, 2011:

The heART of the Deal | Lessons in Management: The Art of Delegating

 Any time you manage other people or projects your life goes from simple to crazy!  The only way to survive is to learn to delegate.  While many joke that they have mastered the art of delegation (and now spend the majority of their time, feet on desk, surfing eBay or YouTube) most supervisors struggle with this key management technique.  Unless managers delegate some of their work, they are acting as individual contributors instead of as a leader. 

To delegate means to assign a task to another person.  This gives them the responsibility and formal authority for accomplishing that task.  One key item to remember is that while authority and responsibility are passed on to a subordinate, the buck still stops at the manager’s desk.  Therefore, monitor progress to ensure that the task is done with quality and on-time.

An added benefit of delegation is that it provides experiential learning.  This allows the entire team to develop and grow.  There will be mistakes but the educational opportunities are well worth it.  Several years ago an employee bashfully entered my office.  I could tell he felt horrible.  With prompting he relayed that he had screwed up on a project and it would cost a property a chunk of change.  I asked, “Will you ever do that again?”  He emphatically replied, “No!”  Consider this tuition for the school of life.  Today he is very successful in the multifamily industry (and he never repeated that mistake!)

There are three basic components to delegation—just think much ADO about nothing:

A – Authority:  The manager needs to pass the authority on to the person to whom the task has been assigned. 

D – Duty:  Assigned the project or task to the person on your team most well-suited to the work.  Make sure you are clear as to what the desired results are.

O – Obligation:  Create a sense of responsibility on the part of the employee—ensure that they will do the work.

The process of delegating by a manager can be done in three steps:

  1.  Make the decision to delegate and ask four questions: 
    1. What are the objectives—what do we need to accomplish?
    2. When does it need to get done?  Is it urgent?
    3. Does the employee have the right resources to get the job done?
    4. Who has the talent best-suited to the task?  (To do this you need to know your team.)
    5. Clearly communicate to the employee:  what is the task, what resources are available to the employee to complete the task and what are the benchmarks to measure progress.
    6. Evaluate how the process went (after the task has been completed):
      1. Were the original objectives met?
      2. Did the employee grow?
      3. Was it done efficiently?
      4. Was the delegation effective?

So why don’t more managers delegate?  When I was a newbie manager, there were quite a few reasons why I stumbled:

  1. No training—I did not know how.
  2. A belief that I could do it better than anyone else.
  3. I came up through the ranks and knew only one way!
  4. No system to measure and assess.
  5. It took too much time (when I am struggling to keep up, it is hard to conceive of the idea that delegating can actually—eventually—save me time!)
  6. Fear of having the subordinate outshine me.
  7. The corporate culture was filled with insecurity and instability.
  8. I didn’t trust my employees—or know them.
  9. The employee rejected taking on additional duties.

So I learned a few things!  I learned that when I delegated to my employees they grew and became stronger contributors to the organization.  The amazing thing was that this enabled me to grow too!  I found that as I hired a team that balanced out my weaknesses, we became a powerhouse!  I got credit for their strengths.  Then I learned to pass the credit for a job well done on to the employee—but if it was a flop, I took the hit.  I avoided the temptation to torpedo the employee who screwed up.  If I did, none of my team would want to take on anything different or new.

I also learned that as an employee, a great way to win the respect of my boss was to take the initiative to take on additional tasks.

So delegate!  You will find that you have more time to manage for the future (because you are taking less time to react).  You will discover jewels in the rough on your team—and with your delegation and accompanying counseling they will turn into highly polished and valuable jewels.  Lastly, it will help you grow to the next level.  And that’s the heart of the deal!

Cheers!  Jim Baumgartner | Rent Soda

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