Delegation is an essential part of leadership and management. It is a critical skill that requires constant improvement and attention. At any point, if the delegation goes wrong it can result in a phenomenon known as “Death by Delegation”.
What is Death by Delegation?
The term refers to situations where individuals delegate tasks or responsibilities to others, but forget to set clear expectations and take a follow-up. This lack of oversight leads to serious consequences, including missed deadlines, poor performance, decreased productivity, and unsatisfied customers.
One of the most well-known examples of death by delegation occurred in the case of the Challenger disaster in 1986. The space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds into its flight, killing all seven crew members on board. The cause of the explosion was determined to be a faulty O-ring, which had been identified as a potential risk by engineers at NASA. However, the engineers had delegated the decision to launch to higher-level managers, who failed to adequately consider the risks and make the necessary changes.
This tragedy highlights the importance of proper delegation, which involves not only assigning tasks but also providing clear guidelines, setting expectations, and performing regular check-ins to ensure that the tasks are effectively and safely completed.
Death by delegation is not limited to high-profile incidents like the Challenger disaster. In our professional lives, there are multiple instances where tasks are not completed on time because of the lack of proper delegation. Moreover, in many organizations, delegation is becoming a way for managers to avoid taking responsibility for important decisions or tasks. If not taken seriously, this can result in a culture of blame-shifting, where employees are left to shoulder the burden of mistakes or failures, without adequate support or guidance.
How to Delegate Effectively?
Delegation can be a powerful tool for managers and leaders when applied properly. Effective delegation allows you to distribute tasks and responsibilities among your team members, freeing up time for you to focus on critical projects and other strategic initiatives.
However, delegation is not as simple as it seems. Here are some tips to help you delegate effectively
1. Choose The Right Tasks to Delegate
Not all tasks are fit for delegation, there may be tasks that require your complete attention or your team might not have the experience and skill set to work on certain tasks. You should delegate tasks that are appropriate for your team members’ skills, abilities, goals, and interests. This practice not only leads to the successful accomplishment of tasks but also adds to employee engagement and productivity.
2. Provide Clear Instructions
It is very important to provide clear instructions while delegating tasks to your team. Without proper information about what needs to be done, what the desired outcome is, and the targeted timeline, team members may be misled.
When team members have clarity about what is expected from them, they will perform the tasks to the best of their abilities. Before delegating tasks to team members, communicate the importance of the tasks to them, tell them how it is going to help them grow in their roles, and how it fits into the bigger picture of the organization’s goals.
3. Empower Team Members
Your role does not end at delegating tasks to team members, you must also ensure that team members are equipped with all the resources they require for completing the task. Resources may include tools, software, or access to other team members and departments.
4. Provide Feedback and Support
Delegating a task to your team members does not mean that you are not responsible for it anymore. You must be available to provide feedback and support to the team members whenever required. This can include regular follow-ups to check if progress has been made, addressing team members’ concerns, providing guidance, and equipping them with resources. To keep team members motivated, make sure to praise and recognize their efforts and good work.
5. Hold Team Members Accountable
Delegating a task means giving your team members the responsibility for completing it and holding them accountable for meeting deadlines to achieve the desired outcome. If a team member is struggling, work with them to identify what support they need to get back on track. In the case of a task not being completed to the expected standard, use it as a learning opportunity to identify what went wrong and how to improve next time.
Effective delegation is not easy, it requires practice and by following these tips, you can delegate tasks in a way that maximizes your team members’ potential. This will also free up your time to focus on other important deliverables.
Remember, effective delegation is not just about getting the task done; it’s about building trust, fostering collaboration, and empowering your team members to grow and develop their skills.
What are the Consequences of Death by Delegation?
Death by Delegation can have a major impact on how an organization functions. Listed below are some of the failures of death by a delegation, which can have significant consequences for individuals and organizations alike.
1. Lack of Accountability
Delegating tasks without proper follow-up or oversight can lead to a lack of accountability among team members. When team members are not held accountable for completing tasks, they may feel demotivated to deliver their best and the quality of their work may decline.
Communication is key to the smooth functioning of any organization and without clear guidelines and expectations, miscommunication can occur between team members. Confusion and errors caused by miscommunication can be dangerous in high-stress or high-risk situations, where even small mistakes can have serious consequences.
3. Missed Deadlines
When tasks are not completed on time, it leads to missed deadlines and delayed projects. This can be particularly problematic in call centers, where delays can disappoint customers and harm brands’ reputations.
4. Reduced Productivity
When team members are unclear about their responsibilities or lack the resources they need to complete tasks, productivity suffers. This further leads to missed opportunities, customer churn, and revenue loss for organizations.
To avoid the failures of death by delegation, leaders must ensure that tasks are clearly defined and that team members have the necessary resources and support to complete them successfully. Regular check-ins and progress reports can help identify potential issues before they become major problems.
Furthermore, leaders can avoid the pitfalls of death by delegation by prioritizing communication, trust, and accountability and thus, create a culture of success and growth within their organizations.
At Etech, our leadership development programs are embedded with special learning modules about accountability, responsibility, giving feedback, skill transfer, making follow-ups, etc. These modules empower our leaders and team members to carry out effective delegation and stay in sync with the organization’s goals.
This blog was earlier published on LinkedIn