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Leadership Skills: Delegating Responsibility

Support Strategic Objectives, by: identifying roles and responsibilities necessary to support strategic objectives; defining roles, responsibilities, and degrees of authority, needed by individuals and teams; designing policies and procedures for the management of delegated activities. The purpose of this is to review the distribution of roles and responsibilities at the senior level. The aim of the review is to ensure that the distribution is balanced and appropriate. This is also an opportunity to make certain that the senior, executive level management structure is appropriate for the strategic direction being taken. If mismatches are discovered at this point, then the leader(s) have an opportunity to adjust the organisational structure, at this level, to better match the demands of the strategies. Make Decisions On Activity To Delegate, by: deciding which areas of work, routine activity, stand alone projects, absence cover, key operational decisions, emergency or business disaster events, and strategic level decisions, should have responsibility or authority delegated to specific managers.

This is an essential stage, but a difficult one. It involves forecasting and scenario planning, in order to determine which activities, and in which circumstances, should responsibility and authority be given. It requires the delegating leader(s) to analyse thoroughly the planned activity and potential events, in order to identify where delegation should take place, and to whom it should be given to. Selecting Managers And Specialists To Delegate To, by: identifying the current roles, responsibilities and authority of those individuals and teams; evaluating the skills, abilities, and development potential, of existing (senior management) individuals and teams; assessing the degree of responsibility and authority that can be given to individuals and teams; identifying coaching and-or training needs to prepare individuals and teams for delegation. Carefully profiling the existing senior management individuals is critical, because delegation will not be effective if it is given to an individual who is not capable of using the delegated powers effectively.

Where gaps in capability are identified, training or coaching should be provided to fill that gap. If the corrective action needs to be long term, then the delegation should be delayed until that process is complete. Agree Responsibilities, Levels Of Authority, And Objectives, by: identifying delegated responsibilities and levels of authority for each individual manager, specialist, and team; discussing these with the individual managers and specialists; agreeing the degree of delegation; agreeing the objectives delegated to the individual. One of the most critical stages, this is where the details of the delegated responsibility and authority are explained, discussed and agreed. It is at this point that the leader(s) should aim to gain commitment to the delegated responsibilities and authority, to targets and deadlines, both qualitative and quantitative. Clarifying The Boundaries, by: defining the limits, the boundaries, of the delegated powers; discussing and agreeing these boundaries; agreeing action that should be taken when the boundaries are reached. This must be treated as a separate stage in the process, and applies to both the leader and the manager being given delegated powers. The leader must understand and accept that delegation does not mean abandoning responsibility. The ultimate responsibility lies with the leader, the one delegating to others. Delegated powers must be managed and supported by the leader.

The individual being given delegated powers must be clear about the limits of those powers, and understand that when that boundary, that limit, is reached, they should refer back to the one who delegated to them. Remove Or Reduce Barriers To Effective Delegation, by: identifying organisational policies, procedures, structures, practices, or cultural aspects, which work against effective delegation; discuss ways in which barriers could be weakened or removed; implement changes or adjustments to reduce or eliminate identified barriers. Most organisations have visible and hidden barriers that inhibit and hinder effective management. The role of the leader(s) is to introduce direction, strategies, structures, policies, procedures, and influences, into the organisation, so that managers and specialists can operate in a culture which encourages creativity, innovation, high quality performance, and success. In parallel with this, the leader(s) must also encourage managers and specialists to take local responsibility for activities and decision making. To do this, barriers and constraints must be reduced to a minimum, leaving an appropriate level of controls in place. Provide Support For Delegated Activity, by: discussing and agreeing the level and nature of support needed; adopting a leadership style that provides appropriate availability, support and guidance to those with delegated responsibilities, but also allowing them the freedom to carry out the delegated powers without unnecessary interference; reviewing levels of personal support and adjusting that support appropriately; consistently behaving in a manner that inspires and motivates those who have been delegated to. There are two most common reasons for delegation to fail. One is that the analytical and decision making process was not thorough enough, leading to the degree of delegation being inappropriate. However, the other most common reason for failure is that the leader delegates and then does not provide appropriate support to the manager being delegated to.

Once the leader has delegated, they must then provide an appropriate level of personal support, encouragement, and resources, to the individual. This support should include: publicising the delegated powers to relevant individuals and teams internally; informing other stakeholders such as suppliers, customers, clients, of the delegated powers; coaching, mentoring, providing training, as appropriate. Reward Performance, by: openly praising consistently high quality operational performance and exceptional event performance; building performance on delegated powers into the organisationís performance appraisal system. An important part of the process because delegated powers are, by default, in the highest group of demands made on the individual, and when performed well, are deserving of recognition and praise. Rewards do not have to be substantial, nor monetary in nature. Recognition and praise will be appreciated by the receiving individual and by their teams and other observers. The leader who delegated the powers must ensure that, when appropriate, high levels of performance in delegated areas, are achieved. Monitor, Review, And Adjust, by: implementing regular reviews of the delegation process and of individual instances; reviewing the appropriateness of current and planned delegation, against the most current strategic objectives; taking corrective action where necessary. The leader(s) delegating powers to others should implement a monitoring and review process that requires them to review the whole process, and individual performance. Individual performance should be monitored continuously, with formal review points at least quarterly.

The overall process should be reviewed at least every six months, at which point the success of the process should be evaluated against the original objectives and then adjusted to take into account changes in operational activity and in strategic direction. In Summary: Leaders must delegate, but must delegate effectively. The most successful leaders treat delegation as an essential strand of their leadership approach. Senior management structures, processes, and objectives are reviewed to ensure suitability for delegation to take place. Areas of work, activities, routine and event-specific decisions, are analysed, evaluated, and where appropriate the decision is made to delegate responsibility and authority. Delegated powers are explained, discussed, and agreed, and measurable objectives set. The leader then builds on this by adopting a consultative, supporting, coaching, role, as appropriate for each of the individuals delegated to. Individual performance on applying delegated powers is monitored and adjusted as necessary. Finally, the performance of the delegation process itself is monitored and reviewed by the leader(s) and the senior management team, to ensure that it remains compatible with the strategic direction being taken by the organisation.


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