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Become a Master Delegator - 9/27/2011 -

..and the manager you were meant to be.

By Cathy McNamara Fitzgerald

These days, no matter how hard you try, you just canít do it all. So stop trying, like I finally did. Here are a few tried-and-true tips to once and for all get on top of your workloadóand stay there.

Make the List

Thatís right, itís time to get back to basics. If youíre already a list maker, you know how this works. If youíre not, youíre long overdue for giving this technique a try.

Step 1: Type out your to-do list.This is going to take some time, but youíll see that itís worth it. Include projects large and small, short-term and long-term, important and mundane.

Step 2: Prioritize the items, based on their immediacy. What needs to be done this week should be moved to the top of your list; tasks that arenít as urgent should be placed near the bottom.

Step 3: Assign a realistic due date to each of the tasks. Now take another look at your list. Want to cry? A list that long is likely to produce mixed emotions even in the most stoic managers. Now that thereís no question about how much there really is on your plate, you might actually feel like curling up into a little ball under your desk. But you also might feel a little reliefóat least you have a complete picture of what needs to be done, and when.

Make the Change

OK, say it aloud: "I can no longer do everything myself.Ē Thatís right, say itóand say it again until you believe it. For many, this is a life-changing event. Hereís the deal: From here on out, you will better utilize your staff to meet your associationís needs. Because (and youíve probably heard this before, but Iím going to tell you again) if you hog all of the work to yourself, eventually you will begin to lose control of your tasks because you simply cannot do it all. And if you try, projects will begin to slip through your fingers or the work that you do accomplish will become less than stellar because you simply donít have the time to dedicate to it.

And what about your staff? Well, your "Iíll just do it myselfĒ attitude certainly isnít benefiting them. You know that they are capable of doing more than you are giving them. Youíre also stifling their ability to grow. How can they learn if you never give them a chance?

Hand it Over

Now that youíve realized you canít do it all, the delegation process may begin. Congratulations!

First, identify which tasks you must do yourself. And consider these tasks carefullyójust because youíve always done them doesnít mean you must continue to do them. Managers should be focusing on goal-setting or problem-solving or advancing the association, right? You donít really need to be in charge of typing the minutes from last nightís board call. Why not allow another staff member to do that, and then you can read and approve them? (See, delegating doesnít mean that youíre relinquishing all control.)

Second, identify people on your team who can undertake the tasks that you determine can indeed be delegated. How will you identify the appropriate staff? These are the individuals who have told you of their interest in taking on more responsibility; they may also be the staff who, simply put, already have the skill sets necessary to do the job. Assign names to all of the tasks on your list, including your own. Click "Save.Ē

Share the Good Word

At the beginning of the week, call a team meeting and bring copies of your master to-do list with you. Your list should now clearly state the tasks at hand, when they need to be completed, and who will be responsible for completing them. Give each team member a copy of the list. Explain that you are undertaking a new process to allow for more team collaboration and contributionóand responsibility.

Go down the list, item by item, and give your staff their assignments. Give them the information they need to succeed at accomplishing their assigned tasks. Tell staff that you are available should they have any questions or require further direction. Allow them to go for it.

Share the Wealth

Post the master list to the intranet, and ask staff to alert you as tasks are completed so you can cross them off the list. (Donít delete the completed tasks from the list; just use a strikethrough, so you and staff can clearly see what has been done.) As tasks are completed throughout the week, email updated lists to your staff. The obvious accomplishments and fewer to-dos make everyone feel better; all of you certainly will share in the sense of accomplishment. At the end of the week, meet again as a team to discuss your progress on the master task list. Youíll want to discuss:

∑ Where you are with each of the projects (acknowledge those that have been completed and commend staff for their efforts);

∑ Issues or concerns with particular tasks;

∑ Solutions to completing tasks that have stalled out;

∑ Reassigning staff responsibilities as necessary; and

∑ The plan for the following week.

Because yes, there will be more tasks next week, and the week after, so youíll want to continue to have these biweekly production meetings with your team. Try to create a relaxed, casual atmosphere for these meetings. Donít assign blame for incomplete projects. In the meeting, itís really not about who completed their tasks and who did not (though that will become quite clear). Emphasize that itís about reaching the departmentís goals and objectives by working together. Let staff talk freely about their projectsí statuses and allow them ownership. Also allow them to air their frustrations and their needs. You may be surprised to see other team members reaching out to assist them.

When you share your teamís accomplishments with your superiors, always give credit where credit is due. You already know you did a good job by creating a successful team dynamic; itís important that your superiors also know that, through delegation, you are enabling your staff to grow and achieve their own career successes, too.

So, hereís to learning to delegate. Itís a major growth opportunity for you and for your staff. And, hereís to finally seeing the bottom of your inbox. Thatís about as good as it gets.

Cathy McNamara Fitzgerald is director, communications, at the Academy of General Dentistry and a member of the Association Media & Publishing Content Creation Committee.


 

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