Article (May-2018)


Effective delegation- Its an art or a skill?

Vikas Khokha

Designation : -   Director - Human Resources

Organization : -  Zimmer India Pvt. Ltd., Gurgaon


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The Art of Delegation - I came across this term a few years back during my roll up around a training seminar. I actually started pondering over this idea as a message to me or a skill which is ether acquired or developed. Across my spectrum of leadership interaction I did see leaders challenging themselves into this situational hazard of either not being able to get things done from their team members as per their requirement or ended up doing things themselves. The few nuances around the delegation comes across through various areas as I came across during my interaction with people managers felt that it was easier for them to task themselves rather than delegating it. Also, the lack of skilled intervention produced goose jumps while conducting this activity. The collaboration and the team effort also paved a diversion on this subject on how to effectively get the work done.
As I look into s few examples from my professional life I deliberated on some of the real indicators which clearly dictated the gaps of the delegation theory and developed a mindset towards the life of an effective leader. Despite managers juggling through leadership competencies and manuals were unable to effectively dictate terms which were congruent to the delegation skills and it was predominantly getting difficult for leaders to sustain efforts which help them to understand this philosophy even from the ones who were effectively practicing it. The journey gets really tedious and steep as people start realising this gap or start effectively transforming their efforts in all possible directions to hit it right somewhere.
Some of the broad observed indicators looked at the behaviour of the leader and the result delivery patterns which seemed worth examining:
  • Person effectively was observed hands - full and too much in demand by the larger fraternity while the team members were relatively free and not very well engaged.
  • The tasks assigned to the managers were losing their deadlines effectively and unable to meet the stakeholders commitments.
  • Excessive time was spent on the activities which were of lesser business vision and more on operational tasks pertaining lesser important quadrants in the scheme of priorities.
  • Economies of scale also play an important role in such scenarios and when the cost matrices are reviewed they exhibit the erratic trends in the spectrums leading to business disharmony in the long run.
  • Needless to say in such cases succession planning took an extremely rear podium and it gets difficult to effectively develop or retain talent for such managers.
  • The greater efficiency is drawn primarily by linking the business results to each individual in the team and of course the indicators are not homogeneous and always highlight exceptions. 
  • The managers own development as a leader comes at stake where the team members start operating in silos leading to output gaps in the mangers domain which gets even delayed to be mend.
  • While team bond may still be cosmetically appearing real, it may still not operate as a team in the real sense leading to then profound cracks in the organisation design and process flows to achieve business results.
As I had observed the above behaviour indicators amongst the team leaders operating in this space, I was forced upon deliberating on the key principles on which this science is resting as to be able to resolve this for better effectiveness of the team as a whole. 
I took over this task and decided to pursue my discussions with some of the young people leaders facing this dichotomy to be able to help them evaluate the areas where they need to impact and the reasons for their cited behaviour. The few examples of probing questions utilised by me helped in understanding the deeper issues and surfacing thoughts behind this behaviour of restrained leadership. 
Q 1 : What are you doing and what you should be doing? 
Q 2 : Are the tasks being done by you could also be done by your team members?
Q 3 : Are you feeling more stressed and excited about the tasks allotted to you compared to your team members?
Q 4 : How easy or difficult is for you to take a break from work and what happens in your absence regarding your team's work profiles and schedules?
Q 5 : What areas within your work spectrum or outside that you feel you could impact but it's not happening?
And the list goes on...
I am just sampling a few of the above questions which helped me to scale the level of delegation of an effective manager. Broadly some of the above areas could also be subjected to an indicator column which would help us understand the deviation of the needle of the delegation tool. Each of the areas could be deliberated in detail and understood in order to exhibit the right approach towards what's not making an individual delegate and how we could make it happen. As we deliberate on each stage we understand that there is a deeper meaning and science to this subject and yes it can be evolved through. The key areas to impact in effective delegation are people and output which we may call as Stakeholder Management and Desired End Output as highlighted in the figure below.
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Let me deliberate and share an example which I had experienced helped me to trace through this journey. I actually chose one of the manager to coach in this area and basis multiple discussions probing into the above arrived at the core spectrum which when deliberated may impact somewhere into this arena. Manager despite having the knowledge, skill and ability to effectively conduct his assignment was found to be ineffective on people delegation which was observed by some of the above behaviours.
The universe exhibits space to us and we fill in the tasks and accordingly we need to clearly define which tasks are actually meant to be done by us while the others could still be nurtured by others. The point of discussion was primarily what stops us from doing the same and what would make us do it very effectively. As we scaled through our discussion, we clearly identified the end objectives, processes and the stakeholders involved which would help us to identify key parameters which actually need to be dwelled and arrive at a consensus and thus - an effective development plan.
As we deliberated more into the intervention in the core areas, we could arrive at the various parameters where the focus could be rendered and mapped on the delegation meter 
there-on :
Remote controlling - An easy tool
It's always effective to let the person front-end the stakeholders which helps them in managing them and also create accountability for their closures. While this is being done the remote control should still be managed effectively by the leader in order to draw effectively attention towards the Control, Creativity and Credibility. Through my interactions with the professionals holding senior leadership roles, this tool has helped them someway or the other in maintaining a distance from the planning, strategy & operationalising through their respective teams. The remote control has helped them in maintaining a distance in establishing partnership with the larger audience at a different scale creating accountability with the teams. The tasks involved with developing an effective remote control is defining the tasks and activities, understanding stakeholders, defining the desired end state and establishing the timeline and putting this task master to work through ones team members. Regular planned reviews with the team members have helped these leaders in gauging the effective progress separately with the team and the stakeholders maintaining a different protocol. One of the leaders identified this as a major stop gap in his absence as due to the governance reasons he was supposed to travel a lot and this has maintain his continuity without he being directly getting into details always. He would however, maintain direct touch with some stakeholders seeking clarity on the deliverable of his team and a consistent feedback during or off business reviews help him to gauge the ownership of his people and also develop his own understanding to the ground level.
Coaching & Mentoring
The biggest challenge which some leaders have specified while they are ready to delegate is to expect the similar quality of output as they would do the task themselves and in case there is an output gap their performance gets affected due to which they get into micromanagement. The basic road to success is to identify the mechanism of developing the next line to deliver what we expect us to. Coaching and Mentoring is a tool identified by some of the successful leaders who I interacted with has helped them with a consistent intervention in developing delegation.
This strictly meant planned meetings in order to address their task based challenges at periodic intervals with a clear agenda of their development to handle stakeholders and ensure output is measured up to the desired level. This discussion is normally not confused with a regular review but is primarily identified in creating ownership of the issue at hand along with the stakeholder. A few leaders did specify that the initial apprehension of driving this effectively did take time in creating a buy-in however with a planned intervention they could manage to successfully execute this and today they are able to cultivate their next level of leadership pipeline. Basis my interaction with two more leaders of diverse industries - Telecommunication and Automobile, it was observed that there is a direct correlation in delegation and mentoring. A sincere effort on this has helped them to surpass this barrier.
Developing effective analytics for controls 
Once we have our remote control ready and have coaching done for our team reportees, there is a need to constantly advance monitoring and control without which there may be indicators which may lead to demurrages beyond repair for the business. As I mentioned stakeholders I did mean not only internal but external like external body including the customer. Looking at this challenge of calibrating the output in 2 spectrums, there is an innovative intervention that I observed while interacting with some members of leadership teams, their confidence and controls came in with the right tools which they have imparted to their team members. The process involved citing the understanding of the objective and creating stake-holders expectations which helped them to table the provisions through various tolls which could be followed by their team members to manage the stakeholders. It was observed that with the use of these tools I some markets, the problem of delegation and effective stakeholder management got 80% resolved as spoken to some of the leaders. The tools helped individuals to establish their rapport much faster and also collaborate effectively for a desired output.
Basis my interaction with few of the leaders on this they also came out that personalised approach in generating this mechanism which helped them to gauge their business output very effectively. A brainstorming session with stakeholders prior to the tool adoption, certainly helped in creating buy-in with the data that was for their benefit and which would impact the problem with more than 50% of the solution. This has proved to them as a core initiative in building in monitoring and control.
Basis my analysis and the study conducted with leaders across different industries I came out with the above simplistic approach to effective delegation which largely rests over 2 levers : People and Processes and if managed through a continued intervention would help in developing the leaders for the next line and also advance towards engagement of the employees at a completely different level. During my interaction I had also continuously observed the focus of development which largely plays a critical role in developing mechanism to gauge the needle on the effective delegation techniques. Needless to say, my approach towards this subject has been limited with just a few interventions; however, even a deeper analysis into some of the best practices adopted by effective people managers could enhance this study to a greater depth.