Who’s Got The Monkey Now? Part 2: How To Make Delegation Work For You

Copyright 2006 The National Learning Institute

In my earlier article “Who’s Got The Monkey Now? How To Find Out How Well You Manage Your Time” (http://www.nationallearning.com.au/index_files/HowToMakePeopleFeelBetterAtWork.htm) , I suggested that you may be caring for a cageful of monkeys (other people’s problems) unless you are managing your time effectively, and in particular delegating.

For managers, there are two key aspects to successful delegation: • Having people to whom one can delegate, and • Selecting the most appropriate tasks to delegate

If you are not a manager, or do not have anyone to delegate to, then I suggest the excellent article by Beth Schneider (http://ezinearticles.com/?How-to-Delegate-When-There-is-No-One-to-Delegate-To&id=141500).

The key to delegation is to develop within your people, the “initiative to take action” so that they learn to develop their skills and knowledge to their full potential.

Managers who are successful are always good at delegating. Less successful managers, when asked why they don’t delegate more, often reply • “If only my staff were more experienced” or, • “I don’t have enough faith in my staff to do the job properly” or, • “Delegation. Sounds great in theory, but I need to have fully trained staff and I don’t have the time to train them”.

If some of these comments sound familiar to you, then the following steps will show you how to: • Identify the current “level of initiative” of each of your team members. • Use the “level of initiative” ranking with your team to further develop their skills and knowledge.

When delegating, it is important to fit the task to the person and to ensure the reason for delegating is appropriate.

Firstly, let’s look at the person. Is it possible to delegate to all your team members? For delegation purposes, team members may be classified as those who:

1. Wait until he or she is told what to do. 2. Do what is necessary, but refer to their manager or supervisor all problems or slightly unusual issues for a decision. 3. Refer all problems or unusual occurrences for a decision, but when doing so recommend appropriate action. 4. Take action on problems as they occur and then immediately report on the action taken. 5. Take action on all issues and problems on his her own initiative and then report periodically on progress.

Less successful managers keep their team members at the second level, i.e. • Do what is necessary, but refer to their supervisor all problems or slightly unusual issues for a decision, by not encouraging them to make recommendations on problems or issues they encounter. As a consequence, their people rarely develop the knoweldge or skills they need to become fully competent.

Successful managers quickly move all their people through to at least level three i.e. • Refer all problems or unusual occurrences for a decision, but when doing so recommend appropriate action.

When people are at level three, they are always looking for solutions rather than just stating the problem. Not only do they look for solutions, but when they do bring a problem to you, they bring their recommended solution. Wouldn’t your life as a manager be so much easier if all your people did this?

Successful managers then move individual staff from level three through levels four and five depending on the particular team member’s skill and how quickly they can gain the necessary experience.

Many successful managers take this one step further by involving their team members in the process of “developing initiative”. For instance, they explain the five-step “level of initiative” process to them and then ask: • What level do you believe you are at now on each of your major job responsibilities? • How can you move to the next level?

Using this approach, managers can then be very clear about which aspects of a person’s job the team member can take initiative on, and how much initiative they may take. It is also a great opportunity to talk about training and development strategies to help move people to the next level on particular job responsibilities. In this way, you know exactly who within your team, you can delegate certain tasks to and most importantly, how they will respond.

I have developed a Delegation Matrix of the five Levels of Initiative which I have been using with practising managers for many years. If you would like a free copy, please contact me via www.nationallearning.com.au

Let’s now look at the second aspect of delegation – tasks that may be delegated.

Tasks suitable for delegation include: • Minor and repetitive decisions. • Tasks you are expert in and that others should learn. • Tasks for which you are least qualified, but that others could learn. • Tasks you dislike, provided someone else likes them (delegation should not be an excuse to dump unpleasant tasks). • Tasks that add variety and interest to another person’s role. • Tasks that will increase the number of people who can perform critical assignments.

Which tasks could you delegate? Remember these remain part of your job and while you can delegate responsibility for them, you remain accountable for each.

One of the questions I am often asked by managers is • “How do I keep track of what’s been delegated?”

If you use the Levels of Initiative protocol by discussing and agreeing each person’s permitted level of initiative, you will note that levels 3,4 & 5 all have built in reporting mechanisms. Make sure you agree how these will operate with your people.

Following the guidelines outlined here, will allow you to release some of your monkeys back to where they can be cared for and fed by others – your team!