Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Management : delegating

A little preamble to the management posts on this blog.

I am still a young manager: I have managed people for 4 years, and it’s been my only duty for about two years. As my tech posts, they may seem naïve, but this is where I am in my head.

On to delegating :)

Delegating is in my opinion one of the key skills of a manager. Knowing what to delegate to whom, and when, is of utmost importance, and very hard to grasp.

When I began to lead people, I had a strong need to control everything. I felt I needed to know everything my team was doing, to do all the important tasks, to oversee everything that was done.

I was a control freak. Call this step 0 of management learning.

This didn’t last long, because after a few month, I was on the verge of nervous breakdown and realized I HAD to delegate in order to free myself some time.

And at this time I thought delegating was only needed to free myself some time. If I had 48 hours days, I wouldn’t need to delegate. I was still a control freak in my head. Call this step 1.

After a while I realized that delegating served an altogether different purpose.

The first reason to delegate is that as a manager, you are not paid to do the job of a trainee. Whatever work can be done by somebody else on the team should be done by them, else you’re paid doing their job, and you are overpaid for it. This is a very trivial yet valid reason.

A more profound reason, that I realized only recently, is that delegating is a way of empowering people.

By trusting people in doing work, you make them feel like they matter. You make them learn and grow. You make them take charge, and they feel like they are an important part of the team. In a few words, they both learn, which is good, and get motivated.

And this should be your number one priority.

A control freak on the opposite will strip out any sense of belonging to the team. People will do their work, period, and wait for the clock every single day to free them from his grasp. The projects don’t matter: it’s his projects not their. And brilliant people will do low quality work, because they are not working for themselves, but for him.

If you cleverly delegate work, people will work for themselves, because it’s their project, not yours. They’ll stay until it’s done. They’ll produce top quality work because they take pride in it.

Delegating is not a way to free you some time. It’s a way to empower the people. And empowering the people is one of the best way I know to build a competent, self-motivated team.

Some people stay stuck in step 0. Some in step 1, which is a bit better.

They wonder why they have a team of incompetent, non-motivated people. Sadly, the answer may only lay in their management skills.

1 comment:

amaury.net said...

Yes, as a team leader, we have to learn that. It's not natural.

One of the biggest difficulties is to "really" delegate. I mean, it's easy to believe that we are delegating work the right way. But, too often, we are managing other people as extensions to ourself. And obviously, we want to control these extensions' work as we control our own work.
It's a common mistake.

Another thing : Give work to somebody doesn't mean we provide everything this person needs to do it.
We have to help our team members to become autonomous. Not to let them become autonomous (which means to let them in their problems).

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