Revisiting the Art of DelegationMay 3, 2020
Early in my career, I was given the opportunity to manage a relatively small group of highly independent and talented software engineers. Prior to moving into management I was a software engineer myself and most of the engineers I managed were my peers before I became their manager. My transition into management was initially difficult. I was considered very productive as an individual contributor; however, the collective productivity of my team of engineers was not as high as it should have been. Before I became their manager, the productivity of the individual engineers was fine. Therefore, I concluded that I was doing something incorrectly as a manager.
I eventually determined that the main problem I faced as a new manager was trying to do everything myself. There were ten engineers in my department at that time and I still wanted to do everything myself because I felt I was the technical expert. I wanted to ensure that the job was “done right.” After all, I was promoted to a manager for my technical expertise, so I believed.
As expected, in my new role as a manager, I gained more responsibilities, both technical and administrative; however, I found that many of our departmental tasks were not completed on time because I was trying to do everything myself. Conversely, my team was getting bored because they did not have enough work to do and they felt that I did not trust their abilities to do the job themselves.
At this point, I decided to try delegating some of the tasks to the engineers, even though I still felt that I was more qualified to do the task myself – a perception not uncommon to engineers or, indeed, any professional who transitions into a managerial position. After assigning a few tasks to engineers and holding them accountable, I discovered something really interesting that I had not expected. The following occurred:
- My workload became manageable again.
- I was able to direct more tasks, thus increasing my span of control.
- My engineers were no longer bored because they had sufficient work to do.
- The engineers regained trust in me because they were now doing many of the technical tasks themselves, instead of me doing them all.
- The engineers started to grow professionally.
- The team developed a sense of shared responsibilities.
- More importantly, I found that the engineers could accomplish the task just as well as I could – and in many cases much better.
I did not realize that delegating would reap so many positive returns. It was as though someone had given me tremendous power to do my job more efficiently and effectively.
I found that delegating works and it is an effective tool for developing team members. I highly recommend that all managers learn the art of delegating. The key to successful delegation is accountability; staff members must be held accountable for their tasks. More so, the accountability must be communicated to all. When used correctly, delegation can be a wonderful tool for improving the manager’s efficiency as well as the overall efficiency of the team. Your team will appreciate the trust and responsibility given to them, and many times they grow from the experience as well.