Effective delegating is essential in any business, but many managers struggle with how to do it the right way, writes John Burfitt.
There is a breed of managers, claims business coach Louise Davis of The Leader’s Leader, who refuse to let go of everyday workplace tasks, distressed by the thought of delegating and determined to do everything on their own.
“I call them ‘white knucklers’,” Davis says. “These people are clinging on for dear life to every workplace task, refusing to let the staff step up and take on those jobs. “I often say to those managers, ‘Uncurl your fingers and let someone else do it’. There can be such fear for them around doing that.”
Learning to delegate is one of the most vital skills of any manager. Delegating the tasks needed to make the business function effectively is often used as a measure of the manager’s success in their own role.
Most experts agree, however, it is rarely the staff who’s the problem when it comes to delegating. It is managers who have little idea of how to do it, and too many who suffer from a condition known as ‘I’ll-just-do-it-myself-itis’.
“For some managers, that is a real addiction—they work from that old premise of doing a job yourself if you want it done properly,” says industry consultant Ken Burgin of Profitable Hospitality. “Well, no business can survive working like that.
“If you want people to follow your directions, you had better be sure you have a good system in place and you are good at giving instructions, and then support the team as they learn what needs to be done. This is where planning, procedures and a whole lot of patience is required.”
“Good delegating is won or lost in your head, as you either believe it works or you don’t,” adds Davis. “Sometimes all you need is to take a long hard look at the benefits of good delegation for you as a leader and for the whole team, and then decide on a process that is going to work for everyone.”
The first factor that must come under scrutiny is the way the business functions and, most importantly, the division of tasks within the team. “You must plan out your workforce and what they do—you can’t delegate unless you have a plan,” says Julie Manfredi Hughes of Manfredi at Bells and Osteria Balla Manfredi at The Star in Sydney.
“If you want your team to take charge of certain areas, then you plan that into their job, explain the process so they understand why this is so important and include a degree of accountability. Tools such as an accountability matrix or workflow chart can assist in effective workforce planning, so everyone knows what’s needed to make the place function effectively.”
Taking such a detailed approach to the processes while delegating can also be one of the best ways to highlight any problems.
“This is when you can discover where the gaps are in the learning and understanding of the roles, and so you can focus on and know how to coach the team member more effectively so they can do what they need to. This is something to spend time on initially, so in the long run, you are confident it is being well taken care of.”
Business mentor Rhondalynn Korolak, author of Financial Foreplay, says the manager’s skills as a coach and their level of patience while training are on the line when delegating to staff.
“It takes a great deal of repetition for the brain to understand a process, and just because you know exactly what needs to be done, never assume your staff member can read your mind,” she says. “Showing someone once or twice is not enough, so be prepared for that to happen.
“Formalise all the various processes by using a folder or a staff website that everyone can check in with as a reference point while in this learning stage. Be sure your staff is supported as they are doing their best to put into practice a number of new concepts.”
Burgin believes in the effectiveness of the simple technique of staff being asked to create daily task lists, with which managers can then offer additional and specific direction.
“In this way, the staff are taking responsibility for what they have to complete and if anything is an issue as they are checking in, then that is the manager’s opportunity to best instruct them on how to complete it,” he says.
Accountability and involvement are the two key words Gail Donovan of Melbourne’s Donovans uses when talking about the ways she delegates within her restaurant.
“You have to allow your staff to share in the decision making within the business and allow them to own their roles,” she says. “Some people are better at certain things than others, so be clear on that before deciding who does what. Play to people’s strengths and make a [point] of teaching people to own the role themselves rather than standing over them telling them what to do.”
Feedback to the staff member on what is working well and what still requires attention is all part of the ongoing process, Davis adds.
“If you don’t give feedback when delegating, then you shouldn’t be delegating in the first place,” she says. “Explain it, show it, then let them have their own experience. People will benefit from this exposure to confidently complete the delegated task. At that point, then you can give feedback on what they did well and what they need to keep working at.”
Delegating the right tasks to the most appropriate staff member is an art and a science. It needs to become a process so the manager can keep a close eye on the tasks at all times, rather than setting once and forgetting.
“The biggest mistake I see is managers giving responsibility to people who simply do not have those skills or know how to even do that job,” Korolak says. “If the task is critical to the business, the onus is on the manager to train them the right way and stay informed of what is going on.
“This is why you need to step up as a leader when delegating—showing staff the values of your business and giving them room to grow in their roles.”
As staff is the biggest investment made in a hospitality company, Korolak says giving the team the room to become as good as they can be needs to become one of the company’s core goals.
“Never rob your staff of the opportunity to learn new things and advance their career skills,” she says. “You need to give them the room to not only complete the task to your standards, but to eventually far exceed them with even greater standards of their own.”