by Gerard M Blair
Delegation is a skill of which we have all heard - but which few understand. It can be used either as an excuse for dumping failure onto the shoulders of subordinates, or as a dynamic tool for motivating and training your team to realize their full potential. "I delegate myne auctorite" (Palsgrave 1530)
Everyone knows about delegation. Most managers hear about it in the cradle as mother talks earnestly to the baby-sitter: "just enjoy the television ... this is what you do if ... if there is any trouble call me at ..."; people have been writing about it for nearly half a millennium; yet few actually understand it. Delegation underpins a style of management which allows your staff to use and develop their skills and knowledge to the full potential. Without delegation, you lose their full value. As the ancient quotation above suggests, delegation is primarily about entrusting your authority to others. This means that they can act and initiate independently; and that they assume responsibility with you for certain tasks. If something goes wrong, you remain responsible since you are the manager; the trick is to delegate in such a way that things get done but do not go (badly) wrong. Objective
The objective of delegation is to get the job done by someone else. Not just the simple tasks of reading instructions and turning a lever, but also the decision making and changes which depend upon new information. With delegation, your staff have the authority to react to situations without referring back to you. If you tell the janitor to empty the bins on Tuesdays and Fridays, the bins will be emptied on Tuesdays and Fridays. If the bins overflow on Wednesday, they will be emptied on Friday. If instead you said to empty the bins as often as necessary, the janitor would decide how often and adapt to special circumstances. You might suggest a regular schedule (teach the janitor a little personal time management), but by leaving...