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The delegation process in project management occurs when you assign responsibility and authority to subordinates or coworkers, but in the end you are still responsible for getting the work done. Delegation can result in enormous benefits to a team or organization because more work gets done in less time, more people are empowered to make decisions, and people are motivated to do more and produce more because they themselves are accountable to you for getting the results you ask for.
Many managers are afraid of genuine delegation because they do not trust their coworkers and subordinates. In some cases, they may even feel threatened should an employee perform better than they at certain tasks. Although these feelings may be natural, you should try not to allow them to guide your delegating style.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Alphax
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There are a number of examples of assigning responsibility to others that all can be called "delegation," although they represent several different levels of autonomy and trust.
1. The first delegation example is merely giving directions to someone: telling them what to do. This type of micromanagement leaves you in control, but it is time consuming, redundant, and can easily lead to frustration.
2. Another example of employing delegation as a management task is allowing someone to do research, answer questions, and report back to you so you can make the decisions. Delegating this way gives your report some feeling of flexibility, although at some point that person will soon recognize that they have no authority and their insights are unwanted.
3. You can go delegate responsibility to someone and let them make a decision, but you hold the final say so. This gives people to whom you delegate the ability to decide, but they ultimately will realize that only your opinion matters.
4. Delegating with the authority to proceed unless you intervene makes people feel empowered and all goes well until you reverse their decisions, humiliate them, and make all the time and effort they invested in their work go to waste. Do this a time or two and no one will trust you.
5. Delegating with only a requirement of reporting back with the outcome gives people the freedom to complete assigned tasks in their own way, but gives you the chance to run for cover if they did things the wrong way.
6. Full delegation allows you to put subordinates in charge of tasks and decisions and you allow them to complete them as they see fit. You show confidence, but put yourself at risk if things are not handled properly. Practicing effective delegation builds team work, encourages others to step up to new levels of responsibility and motivates them to handle situations as if they were in charge. In fact, they are in charge of what has been delegated to them.
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Managers delegate through micromanagement when their own weaknesses and fears dominate. The best example of delegation is that where those entrusted with tasks are allowed to perform them and to take responsibility for their results.
Delegation is not for sissies. If you allow your team members the latitude to grow, mistakes will be made along the way. Occasionally, you'll find a subordinate who cannot handle delegated authority because they use it to become abusive with others or even try to challenge your authority.
When things go wrong with a delegated task, don't spend time pointing fingers. Time should be spent understanding and correcting the problem so the person who made a mistake can quickly recover and be prepared for the next delegated task.