Delegate duties to others so you can work smarter instead of just working harder. Those who delegate only to avoid unpleasant responsibilities will see the tactic backfire on them. In my last column, I urged fretful, do-it-all bosses to improve their health and productivity by delegating appropriate responsibilities to capable workers. I also emphasized giving these workers authority commensurate with their new responsibilities.
Bosses who are inexperienced at delegating often make two classic mistakes.
First, they dump responsibility on capable workers without giving them the authority required to get the job done. I call the process of matching authority with responsibility empowering the worker.
Unless the worker is adequately empowered, he can't execute his duties when coworkers don't listen to him. They may be jealous and suspicious of this person's new responsibilities. Simply put, they don't like answering to someone they didn't have to answer to yesterday.
When people realize they can ignore a newly delegated coworker with impunity, they continue ignoring him. Bottom line: The chores he's supposed to oversee or execute don't get done until the boss takes them over again.
Failing to adequately empower an employee after delegating duties to him makes life miserable for the boss in several ways. First, it embarrasses a capable employee in front of his coworkers. Second, the boss loses any respect and/or loyalty that worker has had for him. Third, it's one of the most common reasons I see good people changing jobs.
What's more, these same people usually thrive under different leadership.
It's only natural that some employees require more motivation, attention and discipline than others do. When these workers see the boss won't back up his delegated lieutenant's decisions, it confirms their suspicions that the boss is weak.
Worse yet, not backing up a delegated subordinate is a tacit invitation for this breed of worker to continue pushing boundaries, getting away with what they will.
As a result, the do-it-all boss has lowered his stature in workers' eyes at just the time he needs to be boosting their respect for him and his judgment.
The second big delegating mistake I frequently see is related to, but not quite the same as, the first one. This error is a do-it-all boss delegating duties solely to avoid taking responsibility for things no boss enjoys doing-disciplining or firing workers.
Competent, successful bosses recognize they're supposed to hire, fire and discipline workers when necessary. But they do more than boss people, they lead them. Part of leadership involves making tough decisions. Many times, the right decision is the most unpopular one and leaders must take considerable flak for the decision.
Unfortunately, some bosses probably read Charles Dickens too much. Like the character Fezziwig in A Christmas Carol, some people long to be popular bosses-omnipotent and respected on one hand and the life of office parties on the other hand. They confuse hard-earned respect with popularity and fondness.
Another characteristic I often see in the Fezziwig wannabes is a craving for peace and quiet, for a sense of camaraderie and mutual worker respect that just isn't there. Enter their tire stores or service shops and you can cut the tension in the air with a knife.
But as long as workers aren't swearing and hurling tire irons at each other, this boss has deluded himself into believing all is well with his crew.
Then push comes to shove, with an employee with an alochol problem-someone who has dropped out of rehabilitation programs and refuses to get additional help-who continues to miss work. Naturally, his absence raises havoc with the service department's schedule, severely stressing his coworkers back in the bays.
After repeatedly threatening to fire this person, the boss realizes he couldn't bear the confrontation and abruptly delegates the chore to the service manager or shop foreman.
When, as expected, the problem employee throws a tantrum before customers and crew, the boss relents and rehires the fellow. In this common scenario, delegating the nasty chore is reason enough for the crew to curse the boss.
But revoking the decision and embarrassing a loyal manager in front of his staff only confirms their worst fears. Namely, the boss is a spineless individual who hasn't earned-and doesn't deserve-their respect.