I’m reminded of the story of the monkey who puts his hand into a narrow-necked jar full of peanuts. The greedy chimp grabs as much as he can and finds out that he can’t get his hand out with a fist full of nuts. He won’t give up what’s in his hand and goes berserk trying to get rid of the jar.
We are like the monkey when it comes to letting go of tasks and delegating them down the line. We like to think that we are indispensable, that no one else can do the job like us. Out of fear of finding out the contrary, we refuse to delegate. Productivity drops; stress and frustration increases.
Even Batman had Robin
Effective delegation is one of the most powerful tools for improving productivity. Letting go of activities that don’t need our specific skills, realising others can do that, is the single most important act that can liberate us from drudgery. Today’s world hinges on collaboration.
If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.” — John C Maxwell
Failure to delegate is a reflection of a lack of self-confidence. Delegation does not mean abandoning responsibility. There are five good reasons why you can’t do everything yourself.
1. You can’t have all the needed expertise in today’s world
We live in a complex world. No single person can be an expert in anything but a narrow domain. Specialisation has reached a point where experts themselves are unaware of all that is available. Collaboration and teamwork is the route to success in modern healthcare.
We look upon experts as the centre of the knowledge universe with all others revolving around the life-giving sun of the individual. Things have changed. Experts are still relevant but more like a major planet. Collaboration has moved to the centre with all others serving to guarantee the best.
Perform only tasks that make full use of your skill level and delegate all others. It would be best if you were not bogged down attending to matters that can be handled by a lesser qualified but well-trained assistant. A mid-level provider may be a very cost-effective strategy to boost efficiency of service.
2. There may be others who can do things better than you
Accepting this truth can be bruising to the ego, but one of the keys to effective delegation is the knowledge that others can do a task better than you.
Push decision making to the person closest to the problem. Let them decide the best way of doing these things. Don’t get in the way. Rule makers, managers, bureaucrats, and many executives have a tough time with this one.
3. You can’t see down all avenues
As a corollary of the previous statement, you must also appreciate that those closest to a task are also better situated to look down the road of events and consequences. Listen to them. You will end up looking far smarter. 30,000-foot views are wholly different from those of the runway. Both are necessary, complementary.
4, No one has more than 24 hours a day … or less
From CEOs to house-keeping staff, we all have the same 24 hours in a day. We all speak of “quality time”: guarded periods where we can spend time doing things that will deliver the most significant value. Quality time will be available only when we ensure that we are not frittering away our quota doing things that are not meaningful. Avoid busy work and resist the temptation to make it look like you are working at something.
5. You will demotivate those working under you
People expect to be valued for their contributions. They hope to be part of a group where each member performs a unique role. If you do everything yourself, those who work with you will see themselves as mere tools, means to your ends, manipulated to suit the needs and ambitions of the boss.
Letting go of activities that can be done by others can be liberating in many ways.
Stepwise Guide to Delegating Effectively
Delegating cannot be done in an “on-off” manner. Two parties are involved: the one delegating and the one to whom the responsibility is given. Both are probably equally anxious when the process begins. It’s best taken in slow, step-wise progression.
Step 1: In the beginning, the person concerned with the task, only observes what is happening and reports back to the superior. They are testing the water.
Step 2: Based on what is seen and reported, they make recommendations about what needs doing. At this stage, there is still no action. Both sides discuss the plans in detail.
Step 3: The person develops an action plan and implements decisions under supervision.
Step 4: Once a level of comfort is reached, the superior has to let go. He must not only step down but also step out.
“Trust is powerful. It is also fast. It can be lost quickly. Trust is also reciprocal. If you give trust, it will be given back to you. Delegation is a result of this trust.” ― Steven R. Covey
Dr Arjun Rajagopalan
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