"If you want something done right, do it yourself." Regrettably, this old adage does not benefit supervisors or the people who work for them.
Supervisors who delegate effectively win out on at least two fronts. First, delegating allows them to be more productive and spend more time on key initiatives. Second, delegating gives staff an opportunity to acquire new skills and expertise. Most staff members value opportunities for growth. Staff, if given these opportunities, will develop accelerated skills that will allow them to make contributions matching their skill level. They also are more likely to continue working at the university as a result of being given these opportunities for growth.
In light of these advantages, why do so many supervisors resist delegating? For some it's a question of trust and faith that others will make good decisions. But it may also be a lack of knowledge, past success or experience. Delegation, like most management skills, is a learned skill. It requires good communication skills and an ability to motivate others.
The following practices are fundamental to effective delegation:
If the purpose of delegating a job is primarily for development, you'll want to be sure to provide adequate training on how the project should be done. Also, you may need to invest more time to ensure that the staff member will succeed.
Depending on the scope and nature of the project, you may want to put the information in writing and make sure everyone concerned has a copy to prevent misunderstandings.
One tangible way to show your support - that is often forgotten - is to let others know that you have given the project to the staff member and that he or she is accountable for it. This simple communication can make a world of difference in how the staff member approaches his or her work and in how he or she is received. If you're assigning something you usually do yourself, it is especially important to transfer "authority" formally. Even a brief e-mail will help pave the way.
On a final note, it is important to distinguish what should and should not be delegated. Delegation is not dumping! Furthermore, some tasks are inherent to the supervisors' position and should not be delegated, such as performance evaluations, goal setting and discipline. Otherwise, delegating is an option whenever you need something done and when someone else can do it. By delegating effectively, you can benefit yourself, your staff and the university.
Note: If you are interested in learning more about this topic, you might enjoy the book Essential Managers: How To Delegate by Robert Heller, Tim Hindle. The Amazon.com list price is only $6.95