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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

From doer to delegator

By Liz Murphy
Special to The Sun

There's an irony about becoming a manager: you were promoted because you did the work so well. Now, as a manager, you have to stop doing the work that made you successful and delegate it to others. Not surprisingly, it's difficult. But if you learn to delegate, you will have more time to concentrate on your management responsibilities; your ability to delegate will also provide you with empowered and motivated staff.

There are actually two levels at which you can delegate. At a minimum you must delegate those responsibilities which you have hired your employees to do; e.g. an accounting manager who constantly re-calculates her staff member's work is failing to delegate. At a higher level of delegation, you may pass on to your staff some of your own responsibilities. So, for example, when a sales manager wants to conduct a customer survey, he could do it or delegate it. Here are some tips to help you be a better delegator:

Golden child syndrome

Periodically look over a typical day's work and ask yourself: What am I doing that someone else could be doing just as well? What could I delegate so as to get some new thinking? What tasks that I usually do could motivate and develop my staff?

Avoid the "golden child syndrome." Most managers over-delegate to their "best" staff member; that's understandable. But what about the others on your team? Consider delegating some special tasks to them too. Of course, you can't delegate to them with the same level of freedom as you can with your "golden child." But start with easy steps and gradually increase independence; you will end up with "golden children."

To cut your risks, think through your delegated task. What do you want? What does finished look like? What are the boundaries of time, money and procedure?

When you communicate the task, be interactive. Ask for suggestions from the delegatee and, when you've finished explaining what you expect, ask your employee to tell you what he understands the task to be. This is a great way to ensure you're both on the same page.

Monitor progress differently depending on each situation. For example, if the task you've delegated is very challenging or if your employee has little experience, you will want to have frequent checkpoints. But when you're delegating to a confident, accomplished individual, just be available for questions.

If you don't get the results you expected, figure out why. Did you choose the wrong person? Did you communicate ineffectively? Was your monitoring too much or too little? And, when you do get good results, be sure to give lots of praise and public credit.

Liz Murphy has 20 years' experience designing/delivering management training as the President of a Toronto-based consulting firm. She also has a long history with the Canadian Management Centre. Visit for information on her next management training session.

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