Delegating competencies – how to do that properly?

Many managers take up so many assignments that they are unable to fulfill all of their tasks properly. Because of that, they fail to meet deadlines, and their company suffers losses. Small enterprise owners act in a similar

Many managers take up so many assignments that they are unable to fulfill all of their tasks properly. Because of that, they fail to meet deadlines, and their company suffers losses. Small enterprise owners act in a similar fashion because they think that they are the only ones who know how something should be done. However, there are other employees in a company, and these people should become responsible for doing certain tasks. We call this the delegation of competencies. This action has a number of advantages, however, some managers claim that it is much easier to simply issue orders, divide tasks, exert control, and demand results than to share the success with their subordinates. Apart from that, it turns out that it is very difficult to delegate competencies in such a way that every employee is given the tasks which he or she knows best how to fulfill. In order to optimally delegate tasks, a manager has to recognize the talents and skills of individual employees under his command. In this article, we include the most important hints related to the delegation of competencies. Because of the complexity of the process and because a certain degree of talent is needed in this field, the delegation of competencies is considered by many as art.

The types of the delegation of competencies

One might find many types of the delegation of competencies in appropriate literature. However, generally speaking, there are two main types of this activity:

Delegating for results – is applied when an employee is fully aware of the effects that his employer or manager anticipates. An employee must also have the possibility to precisely specify these effects, and to make an estimate of how long it will take to achieve them. In such a situation, the responsibility for a task belongs wholly, or partially at least, to the employee who was given the assignment.
Delegating for development – in such a case, the tasks delegated to an employee need not be connected to his usual work. Here, the aim of delegating competencies is the broadly understood development of an employee. Through such action, the aim is to allow an employee to acquire new skills and gain experience in a new field. In such a situation, a task should be perceived by an employee as a kind of challenge which he or she has to face – with enthusiasm. A manager who carries out the delegation for development has to devote a lot of time and effort to this activity because he or she is fully responsible for the realization of a given project and its results.

The importance of delegating competencies from the point of view of a company

For an organization itself, the delegation of competencies by a manager is very important. It can even be a decisive factor in determining the success or failure of a company. One should not neglect the importance of delegating competencies, especially today when the market in which enterprises function is so demanding and complex. Thanks to the proper division of tasks between individual employees it is possible to increase cooperation among them, to establish some standards of work among subordinates, and to unveil and develop the skills of all talented employees. If employees do the same kind of work over and over again, they experience job burnout after some time. If a manager introduces some variety to their work, they become more engaged in their tasks, and their motivation increases significantly. Thanks to that, it is possible to uncover new talents among members of our staff. However, it has to be stated that not all tasks can be or should be delegated to our subordinates. What is more, not every employee is happy to hear that he or she has been assigned with some new activities which require intense work.

The reasons for ineffective delegation of competencies

Managers often fail when delegating competencies and they usually have a problem to determine why. The activity can turn out to be ineffective due to many reasons. For example, some managers think that it is much easier to perform a given task personally than to train employees and explain to them how something should be done. They may know that delegating competencies is a good thing, but they do not agree that it works in every situation. This belief is quite common. Some managers are afraid that the delegation of competencies may lead to the lowering of their position in their company. They prefer to be perceived as irreplaceable by their employer. They might even want to take up more assignments, even though they are exhausted, just to keep their present status. A manager fears that his employees might prove to the company owner that they are able to fulfill their manager’s tasks as effectively as he does or, worse, even better than he does.

The delegation of competencies fails also due to inappropriate planning or lack of planning. A manager who gives certain assignments to his subordinates does not devote enough time to the planning of which tasks should be assigned to which people. He also does not think much about how such tasks are to be performed. He should clearly specify how is he going to supervise his subordinates work and how is he going to check the effects. Moreover, he should also support his employees in the realization of the delegated tasks, however, it often turns out that a manager usually does not have time for that. He should describe in detail what results he anticipates as this is the key matter in the delegation of competencies.

A new question arises – if managers are aware of the dangers of inappropriate delegation of tasks, why do not they devote enough time to plan the activity? They are usually able to find many excuses for that. Most often, they say that they do not have the time to plan everything properly. They are burdened with present tasks, and they live under constant pressure of deadlines. They prefer to focus on their projects and leave the delegated tasks to their subordinates.

An ideal situation is when a manager, who is about to delegate competencies, creates a detailed list of tasks, in written form, which he is about to assign to his subordinates in the near future. After such a list is created, the next step is to verify the tasks and eliminate those which have to be dealt with personally. The reason for being forced to do something personally may lie in preserving some confidential company data. It may also be the result of a client’s wish. We should also cross out the tasks which have a high risk of failure and which have a very near deadline. The tasks which should be delegated to our subordinates are the routine ones which do not require the involvement of a manager. We can assign them to our employees without fear. A manager who delegates competencies should ensure proper training programs for his employees if he thinks that such courses are necessary for the proper realization of the delegated tasks. These training programs may increase the effectiveness of employees and, in consequence, cause better results. Proper explanation on how to realize a given project helps achieve the expected results faster.

The problem when delegating competencies lies in the notion of proper communication between a manager and the employees who are to be given some specific tasks. A manager should encourage his subordinates to take up opportunities which appear while they work on the delegated tasks and projects. Thanks to that, employees can pursue self-development and have unique opportunities to gain experience. Sometimes, due to inappropriate communication, employees may have the impression that the competencies they are given are the result of solving the problem of unpleasant tasks by managers. If such feelings indeed appear in the minds of our subordinates, this will most likely result in the absolute loss of motivation and commitment. In such a situation, we can be sure that we will not achieve the expected results from the delegated tasks.

How to effectively delegate competencies?

Thousands of managers of various companies undoubtedly seek an answer to this question. They would want to assign certain tasks to their subordinates, but they simply do not know how to do that properly.

Below, we provide a number of universal rules when it comes to the delegation of competencies:

Create a very detailed project of the delegation of competencies. Devote as much time and effort to this as possible. The project should include all tasks which you plan to delegate. You should also write down your expectations in relation to these tasks. Specify the effects that you request from your employees. Next, communicate with your employees, explain to them what these tasks are all about, and tell them what you expect of them.
Create an outline of the project for your employees. Do not only describe individual assignments, but show them the full picture. A broad perspective of an undertaking greatly helps in achieving the best possible results. Moreover, thanks to such an approach, they will not feel that they are simply given the most unpleasant tasks. They will see the purpose behind their assignments.
Establish long term goals for the realized project. At the same time, establish the dates when you are going to check the progress of particular stages of the project and the general work of your subordinates. Thanks to that, you will be able to act immediately should any problems arise during the process of project realization.
Remember that one of the goals of delegating competencies is to give employees the opportunity to make good use of their skills and to acquire new abilities and experience. Make sure that the tasks you assign to them are adequate to their knowledge and competences.

Nobody said that the delegation of competencies is an easy activity to perform. However, if we carefully follow the rules we listed above, and if we approach the issue reasonably, the delegation of competencies will serve its purpose, and we will give our employees the opportunity to develop further and check their skills in new working conditions.