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Delegation (A Time Management Article)

Written by: Craig Twombly
Published: May 2010

The word time management is a very broad term with many meanings.  In the workplace leaders are always tasked with more projects or things to accomplish with the same amount of time as before.  An understandably daunting task at times!  I will not confess and say I have the answers to the challenge; there are many factors in the success of someone's ability to manage time wisely. One thought to help with the burden of not enough time is delegation.

Delegation, as defined in the Merriam Webster Dictionary states Delegation; as the act of empowering to act for another.  Kind of confusing?  I remember as a manager delegating tasks to assistant managers and employees. As I look back I might have been confused as to what delegating really was. When time is tight and we are busy, the term "delegating" can often be associated with the term "dumping". Dumping is when you give a task that is simple, boring, tedious, or something that needs little or no direction/explanation.  I would delegate things such as cleaning an office or calling about an order that was placed.  As I progressed in my career it became obvious that if I wanted to work less than 60 hours a week and keep my sanity I need to figure out how to better manage my time. After some effort, it became clear I could not continue to do all that I had and not spend 60 hours a week. After talking with a close colleague, I walked away with a plan to hand over some very important tasks.delegation In the restaurant world one of the most important tasks is food orders. On average you have to place three orders a week and it takes two hours each time, plus the time to check in the order two days later. This equates to 12 hours a week of important work. I put a plan together with an employee who had the prior experience to place orders. After a month of working hand and hand with him, I officially delegated all food orders to him. I would never thought of handing such an important item to someone. As I quickly learned he took more time and precision in placing orders than I was capable of with all that needed to be done every day.  When deciding to delegate, there are several factors to think about and here are a couple that comes to mind:

  • Who are you going to delegate to? Traditionally speaking we will find the strongest team player and "dump" because we know they will get it done. When I sat with my colleague, he reiterated the famous saying that, "You are only as strong as the weakest team member." Can you delegate to someone other than the strongest member?
  • What can be delegated? When time is tight, it is easier to dump than to delegate. It takes time to bring someone up to speed on what and how it needs to be done correctly, but in the long run some extra time up front can save time.
  • Ask questions! I wrote an earlier article about engaging people and the fact people want to have a voice in the work they do. I looked at the task of food orders as an old hat and honestly boring. Once I sat down and discussed the opportunity to help the team and the restaurant, he jumped on board fully engaged and feeling valued. 

Here are a couple of thoughts about delegation:  It will take time and trust in the person's ability to accomplish what you have delegated. Once you reach this point, you may have to help by coaching on errors or mistakes and follow up once in a while. Once they have an understanding and some experience, it will ultimately begin to free up some time for you.  As my old colleague would tell me, "It takes time and needs to be a priority for it to work." 
What can you delegate right now that will free up your time a bit and will help someone else on your team or staff to grow and learn?

Craig Twombly

Craig Twombly

Craig is the primary facilitator at Priority Learning, he is responsible for conducting an array of leadership series offered and consulting assignments from communications to team development in organizations ranging from the service industries to finance, manufacturing and more. Having extensive experience at balancing the business needs with the wants and desires of people are Craig's strongest assets.