Accountability and Delegation

In our executive coaching practice we are often talking to people who continually complain of a shortage of time and say that ‘time management’ is a leadership development issue for them. However, what we have regularly discovered is that the problem is not one of time management but of ineffective delegation stemming from a lack of accountability for the development of their people.

When a senior person is spending time working on things using the excuse “it’s quicker if I just do it myself” or “people don’t understand this job/subject/matter as well as I do” etc., they are out of touch with what their role is in the organisation and avoiding being responsible for the growth and success of the people who work for them, and ultimately for the growth and success of their organisation. There is clearly a lack of understanding of the source of high performance and the role that relationship and teamwork play in making it happen.

Delegation is not about finding someone to dump your work on. Of course it must be given to someone who can handle it, but oftentimes this will require training and/or supervision. Training is the answer to time shortage and time needs to be created as a priority to do that training otherwise you are left trapped in a never-ending cycle of lower productivity and personal stress.

Too often we see senior people not doing the work they need to do to have their people be successful, including being clear about their expectations and making sure their staff fully understand their expectations. The responsibility for the ‘right’ person for the role is often placed on the HR or Recruitment Manager and then when that person doesn’t live up to expectations it’s time to find another ‘more suitable’ person.

Your people must be trained to do the job as well as you can do it, or better – including being fully responsible and accountable for it. Often this takes initial close supervision. Sometimes that will involve keeping someone’s attention on a particular cycle or aspect of the job to be fulfilled that you are unsure about in terms of their capability, then doing that until it’s completed up to a standard you are satisfied with.

Training includes monitoring the productivity of staff members. If you are concerned about the level of production of someone it can often be because you have no clear picture or dashboard from which to view their productivity. That is the first step required to monitor and support the development of your staff until they are reliable for delivering to the expected standard. There needs to be clear measures to monitor and regular communication with the staff member to ensure that they are moving forward with meeting those measures.

Having a clear and specific set of measures and a dashboard or set of tracked statistics which allows you to detect when production is dropping, and more importantly, how well they are doing, is essential. Having this will also allow you to see clearly where the person needs training. Having this information is also invaluable for being able to see how well your ‘gut feel’ is working and also for seeing the reality of what is going on, good and bad. Without a tool to be able to clearly see what someone is doing well and what needs attention, we can get caught up in the ‘bad’ stuff and overlook the good.

How you know when a job is fully delegated is you will find that you have barely any attention on it at all. If you are worrying about an area, you should get back into that area with the person concerned until you have sorted out your concern and have handled it through measures and monitoring. When you are no longer concerned, you can move out of the area and let it grow.

Don’t set up your delegating activities in such a way that the person you have delegated to must refer final decisions back to you. That is not true delegation because there is no accountability involved. The person must be a decision-maker in her/his own area, whatever that is, accountable and responsible for what they do and do not produce.

Those who understand the concept of delegation with accountability know that although initially somewhat time consuming, in the long term it does in fact save time, develops initiative and enterprise among staff, and encourages ambition. Without accountability, staff will slowly lose their sense of responsibility and will tend to blame others or outside influences for any poor performance.

That’s when standards start to decline.

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