Posted on

Work smarter

Marion Haynes-Barker, Head, Technical Assistance Unit, The Productivity Council

Work smarter

Social Share

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” – Martin Luther King.
As an organisational leader, do you often find yourself with an unequal distribution of work/tasks and responsibilities? Is this resulting in stress and/or overwork within the organisation?
If you are a small business owner who has become a “jack-of-all-trades”, and essentially does “a little bit of everything” when it comes to managing your business, or you are working in a medium- to large-sized firm whose daily tasks and business management responsibilities are never delegated, such that management is overextended, then you may want to rethink delegation as a viable next step to resolving these issues.
As time goes on, the small business owner or the organisation who refuses to delegate will eventually lose focus, fail to achieve objectives and as a result organisational productivity will suffer.  So where do managers go from here?
There are many reasons why managers do not hone this essential skill and thus it has rather regrettably become one of the most underutilised management skills. But the fact is that in order to increase productivity for any business, delegation is essential.
Remember, you can only work so many hours in a day and there are only so many tasks you can complete within those hours.
Delegation is a two-way process. Good delegation enables you to make the best use of your time and skills, facilitates the development of people, enables succession planning, and motivates. Poor delegation will create frustration, demotivate and confuse the other person(s), and ultimately fail to achieve the task or purpose itself. 
On the positive side, as a manager or supervisor, you have been given a tremendous opportunity to develop your employees. Effective delegation is crucial for management and leadership succession and it enables employees to gain experience to take on higher/increased responsibilities. When we fail to delegate, we create a perception of mistrust in the minds of those who feel confident to perform the tasks.
It is worthwhile to note, however, even through all the discussion and debate on this subject, that not every task can be delegated. There are a lot of decisions and processes to consider when it comes time to build a team and delegate, and there are steps to be taken early on in the process to make it more effective. There is no guarantee that the delegated task will be completed successfully.
However, to assist with the process management should ensure that a simple delegation rule is observed. Specifically, delegation should follow SMART(ER) guidelines. SMARTER delegation ensures that activities allocated to the process are Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Time-bound, Ethical and Recorded.  It is a quick checklist for proper delegation and ensures critical variables will be covered.
As a delegator you must ensure there is effective management of the process. To determine when delegation is appropriate there are some key questions you need to ask yourself.
Is this a task that I should delegate? Tasks critical for the long-term success of the organisation need senior attention and clearly should not be delegated.
The next question would be, to whom do I delegate? Or, is there an employee who has the necessary knowledge or expertise to complete the task? Furthermore, what is the current workload of this person? And, does this task suit the individuals’ preferred work style?
Delegation is about coaching and providing opportunities for employees to grow, therefore time must be allocated for defining the task, for questions and feedback, for opportunities to check progress, for rework if necessary and for adequate training if required.
You should therefore ask yourself, do you have enough time to delegate the job effectively? Furthermore, does this task provide an opportunity to grow and develop another person’s skills? Remember, never fall victim to micro-managing as this hinders the process and hence may stifle creativity; ceteris paribus, there are several ways to complete an assignment.
These are but a few tips for effective delegation.
• Next week’s article will examine, among other things, some pitfalls which management should avoid in the delegation process and will explore the flipside of the issue, that is, how to receive delegated assignments  – an equally important component.