Learn to Let Go.
By Caroline Cooper
Monday, 22nd November 2010
I caught myself this week doing something I really should have delegated to someone else; not only was this tying up my valuable time when I could be doing something more productive; the person who should have done it would have done a better job, and in half the time!.

Do you ever find yourself falling into this trap?

When you own the business or have high stakes in it, it can sometimes be difficult to let others get on with things. In my recent interview series 'How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge' two of my interviewees talked about how hands on they like to be. And it is understandable. And a good leader should be prepared to muck in and roll their sleeves up when absolutely necessary; but this should be the exception rather than the rule.

The skill is knowing when to let go of the day to day issues, and put your trust in someone else to get on with things, leaving you to focus on the more strategic aspects of the businesses.

You can no longer expect to be in control of everything, even though this can cause anxiety and insecurity.  Are you one of those managers who reacts to uncertainty about the future by tightening your control even further (introducing more policies/systems/procedures or withdrawing into hands-on activity and over concern for the detail)?

"Never do anything that someone paid less could"

'Getting things done through others' is accepted as an essential aspect of the process of management.  Implicit in this definition is the notion of delegation.  It is, however, surprising to find that many managers experience difficulty in seeing that improving their ability to delegate may actually offer a solution to, at least, some of their problems.

Delegation does not mean abdicating one's responsibilities.  Delegating effectively is, in fact, a prime responsibility of the manager.  It can be regarded as a means by which results can be achieved, through the empowering and motivating of others to carry out tasks, for which you are ultimately accountable, to a specified level of performance.

The need for delegation

Some managers will claim that their jobs don't allow them to delegate.  If this sounds like you, ask yourself the following questions about particular tasks for which you are accountable:

  • Is there someone who can do the task better than you can?  Are you really benefiting from the expertise of your staff?
  • Is there someone who, while doing the task slightly different from you, or in slightly more time, can still achieve an acceptable level of performance?
  • Is there someone who is paid less than you who can do the task satisfactorily thus lowering the cost of completing the task?
  •  If you can't do the task until tomorrow, is there someone who can do it today?
  •  Is there someone who would benefit from doing the task, in terms of personal development?
If you are honest with yourself, you will probably be able to answer YES, to at least some of these questions.  If so, you and your business may well be able to benefit from more effective delegation.

Advantages of Effective Delegation

If you find yourself struggling to delegate, keep focused on the benefits, to give you that incentive to find a way. Will delegating certain tasks:

  •  Make more efficient use of your budget - costing less for staff members rather than you to perform the same task?
  • Enable your business to attract top performers who seek out and enjoy challenges; conversely force out poor performers who don't want to be challenged?
  • Mean work won't come to a halt when you are out of the office?
  • Free up time for future oriented, strategic tasks:  developing teamwork; improving service; raising quality of products; updating systems, etc?
  • Promote teamwork and generate new ideas; as others get involved in more tasks, they have a better understanding of the overall business, and how things can be improved?
Bear in mind
  • People who feel they will be praised for good results as well as constructively criticised for mistakes, are more likely to take on tasks in the first place
  • The easiest way to save your time is to use someone else's
  • The degree to which paperwork, queries and interruptions are handled when you are away or off site highlights a practical reality, that you do many low pay-off activities which could be done by others
  • Your team are more likely to fail through your doubting their abilities than through their own inexperience
  • In order to be effective at delegating you must believe:
    - People want to improve
    - Ordinary people can perform in extraordinary ways
Motivating through delegation
  • Make suggestions
    Don't instruct, give guidelines and scope for decision-making
  • Enthuse
    Sell your ideas and ask your team for their ideas and suggestions
  • Set challenges
    Why do we do it this way? Can we do it smarter? Where can we improve?
Ensure the person knows he/she will be helping the team effort while learning new skills and taking on greater responsibility

Typical excuses

Do you ever hear yourself making any of these ‘excuses'?

  • "It takes too much time to explain, I can do it quicker"
    In the short-term yes, but in the longer term if you delegate you are saving time (providing you are delegating tasks which are recurring or where the principles can be applied to other situations).
  • "They aren't yet capable"
    And never will be unless you start using delegation as part of your team's development plans.
  • "No-one, except me, is up to it"
    Maybe, but are you being too much of a perfectionist?  Does the task need such a degree of excellence?  If not, maybe someone else can do the job adequately in less time.
  • "I enjoy these tasks - losing them would make my job less interesting"
    In the longer term, improvement in staff morale and performance will make your job easier and just as enjoyable.
  • "I delegate some things - the things I hate"
    Consider whether simply discarding and offloading work you don't want to do is the most effective way to develop and motivate people.
  • "If someone else does it I'll lose control and respect"
    You'll lose more control and more respect by not devoting enough time to managing the whole business effectively because you are too wrapped up in the detail.
Preparing to delegate
  • Make a shopping list of the things you do. How many tasks could you pass on?
  • Which tasks don't you delegate because you like them?  Should you be delegating any of these? (see ‘excuses' above)
  • Which tasks do you delegate because you hate them?  Are there any you should be doing yourself? (see ‘excuses' above)
  • If the job and the decision-making involved is sufficiently routine, delegate it if one of your team can do it
    o better
    o quicker
    o more cheaply, or
    o if it will help to develop them.
  • Don't delegate managerial tasks, which relate to the work unit as a whole, e.g. conceptual planning, morale problems.  Don't delegate tasks which are your specific responsibility, e.g. reviewing individuals' performance, planning and setting staff objectives, confidential matters.
Caroline Cooper is a business coach with over 25 years' experience in business and leadership development, and founder of Zeal Coaching, specializing in working with hospitality businesses, and is author of the Hotel Success Handbook.

She is also creator of the Foundations in Leadership online leadership programme for hospitality managers, bringing a brand new approach to hospitality leadership development.


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