Smart Delegation: What Managers Should Not Delegate


Delegation is one of the essential tools of management. Without delegation, it is not possible to run large enterprises or to find time to do all the essential tasks, even in smaller businesses. There are just so many things to do and so little time. You cannot be present at more than one place at a time to oversee things.
However, there are some situations when delegation is inappropriate. Unfortunately, we have too little time to determine what should and should not be delegated. Sometimes, a manager just does what s/he likes and delegates those tasks s/he finds tedious or uncomfortable, or worse, ends up doing everything herself or himself. After distilling my knowledge on the topic, I have come up with several guidelines so you can determine what should not be delegated.
Core Functions or Responsibilities. It is my strong belief that you should not let go of the most important aspects of your position. This is the area where your work adds the most value for the company. This is true not only for employees, but also for entrepreneurs. In the case of employees, if you delegate your core functions or responsibilities, your boss may think you are no longer necessary. Entrepreneurs, on other hand, may find themselves helpless if the key employee leaves or demands a sky-high salary increase. Worse is if a competitor pirates the employee or the employee starts his or her own venture to compete against you!
Crisis Situations. If the situation is critical, especially if there is media coverage, you must be hands-on in your style or at least be present to monitor the situation. Failing to do so may leave you vulnerable to criticism as to whether or not your direct supervision has any bearing. A crisis may not be as news worthy as a hostage situation, but if a large account were threatening to find another supplier then it would be wise to be present with your salesperson to try to appease the disgruntled client.
Traditions and Etiquette. Sometimes it does not matter if someone else can do the job; there are events in which only your presence will please people. Usually these are social events of special significance like weddings or funerals of key personnel’s close relatives or during rites like awarding of recognition certificates. Politicians are keenly aware of this and many make a point of attending as many funerals in their area as they can.
Confidential Matters. There are certain tasks that require knowledge of sensitive or confidential information. Among these are trade secrets that should not fall into the wrong hands. Databases of customers are a specific example of this. Other things that may not be suitable for revealing to subordinates are personal files that may reveal damaging data. So if there is a possibility for leakage, then better do it yourself.
When Potential Damage is Intolerable. While all kinds of delegation carries some risk of failure there are some mistakes that can literally close down the company or your career. Try to find a way to limit the potential damage. In many companies, there is a printed maximum amount on face of the check to prevent the issuer from over stepping her/his authority. If there were no way to install such a stop-loss feature, then it would be best to do it yourself.
Dispensing Praise and Incentives. People may doubt your sincerity if you let a subordinate be the one to send the message for a job well done. You can boost their morale better if you yourself show your appreciation. With regards to dispensing incentives, remember that people tend to be more loyal to those whom they perceive is responsible for the benefits they are getting.
Discipline. Many managers are not comfortable about confronting subordinates if they have to impose discipline, especially in cases where they have to suspend or terminate an employee. This is one of the most unpleasant tasks but also a job that you cannot delegate.
Rule Setting. You should be the one to set the standards and policies. For example, if you are the credit manager, you cannot just say to your subordinates to accept a credit application if s/he thinks the applicant is credit-worthy. It is your responsibility to set the rules and so you should be the one to define what “credit-worthy” means.
The rules above are not fixed, and sometimes, when there is just no time to do it yourself, you are forced to delegate some of the above when there is little risk. However, never forget that there are limits to delegation, and that there are cases where you should not delegate.

*Originally published by the Manila Bulletin. Written by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.
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