If you are a manager or CEO, it is unrealistic for you to handle every affair of your department or company by yourself. Ask yourself, why do companies have employees? It is not because supervisory staff need other people to show cute cat memes to on their iPhone when they are bored in the office.
Sharing cat memes with your subordinates can be an effective way to incorporate fun into your company culture, which increases retention, but doing so does not directly gain customers, clients, or profits. The definition of a successful company is profitability, and this is gained by two factors: 1) Development and 2) Increased Efficiency. Authority delegation facilitates both.
It is vital to remember, as a supervisor, that these employees are your subordinates. They were hired for a reason, and they willingly work for you (unless you are using slaves, which you should stop doing IMMEDIATELY). Your subordinates are there to get the job done.
Delegate, don’t micromanage
Delegation means that you take the authority to accomplish tasks, and hand it over to others (read: subordinates). It is not simply just telling your staff something similar to “Joe, you need to do this today,” but it is empowering them to take on authority, and get the job done in a manner that benefits the company as a whole.
Micromanaging is a waste of time and irritates your staff. Think of it like this absurd example, though, when you think about it, is a perfect example of micro-management:
You are at a fast food drive-thru. You make an order, pull your car up, and then exit the vehicle. You walk into the restaurant, go behind the counter and into the kitchen. Next, you proceed to instruct the workers on how to make your burger, including the lettuce placement on the bun, and how to make your milkshake. Oh, and the exact number of fries for a “large.”
Seriously? These are simple tasks, and the workers have already been trained on performing their roles. As technically the momentary employer of these people (you are paying them for their work), you have just wasted your time, theirs, and made them feel extremely uncomfortable. At least they did not call the police when you walked behind the register…and your burger, fries, and shake tasted the same as they would have had you just stayed in your car.
If this scenario was real, and a common practice amongst customers, it would not only scare candidates away from working there (hey, even though it’s not a dream job, it is a job), but it is also a waste of your very own time. They know how to make the meal, they have been given the authority to do so, everything will be fine as long as you stay in your car.
As silly as this example sounds, it is a perfect example of how micromanagement is counterproductive to a company’s success. The proper method to facilitate a company’s success would be delegating authorities to the company’s team members, so as to save everyone time, frustration, and, most importantly, your company’s success in the marketplace.
What is delegation of authority?
Simply stated, it is the giving to others the power to do what they were hired to do. To be absolutely clear, the components of delegation are as follows:
1. Authority – as defined by Merriam-Webster, who happens to be the leading authority (yes, authority joke just happened) on the English language, authority is the power to give orders or make decisions : the power or right to direct or control someone or something. That means that a person with authority has the ability to make choices and decisions, produce work, without supervision. Employees in positions of greater authority than their subordinates must have the scope of their authority well-defined and fixed in place.
2. Authority begins with the CEO, and then trickles down throughout the tiers of the company. It dictates how a supervisor can get their subordinates to achieve tasks that the supervisor ultimately is the responsible party. Delegating authority does not absolve an executive from responsibility; it rather holds them accountable for their delegative decisions.
3. Responsibility – the task that one is assigned to follow through on. When an employee is given a responsibility, they should be sure to achieve the task according to the expectations of company standards of performance. If they fail to complete their responsibilities, there should not be excuses or stories. Responsibility also flows in the opposite direction of authority; it begins with subordinates and moves upwards to supervisors. Having responsibility without reliable authority causes confusion and frustration among staff. Also, while lower-level staff are the members of the company most responsible for conducting business, make sure that they are praised for jobs well done, and reprimanded for faulty work.
4. Accountability – can not be delegated, it must be personally assumed. If one delegates a responsibility to a subordinate, then the supervisor is still accountable for the results; they were the one that chose to whom the responsibility was delegated. Accountability is when you can explain why job performance was met or not, and admitting that you were the one in charge of the decision that lead to the outcome. Accountability can be taught, but it must never be forgotten.
As displayed in the above graph, CEOs are not taking the lion’s share of responsibilities for a company, and for good reason. Delegating authorities to subordinates frees up valuable time that can be used for any number of efforts to increase your business. In a recent study, 41% of workers surveyed found they were spending time on low-level tasks that could be delegated to others. One company in the study noticed a 5% increase in sales after dropping low-level work from their upper management team, so they could have time to do work that truly matters for their company.
Do not fear delegating authority
Sure, some people are old fashioned, and operate under the maxim of “If you want something done right, you need to do it yourself.” Yet, if you are a CEO or in upper management, it is wise to often reevaluate what it is that you are supposed to be truly doing. Is it really your job to be writing content when you have a content writer? No, your job is managing your employees.
Baby Boomers can especially be less comfortable with delegating authority, as culturally they may feel that they are losing control of their company’s performance. However, by delegating authority to you employees, a supervisor is in fact empowering them. And, when you think about it, if you have thoroughly vetted your employees, and sufficiently trained them during their introductory period, then they should be capable to do the job that you hired them for in the first place.
So what are you afraid of?
66% of managers believe that increased delegation of duties will increase their capacity for time management, and company efficiency. In an upper management position, you are in charge of strategizing and planning, not administrative or content work. Delegating authority is a relatively simple process, once you have identified which tasks are best suited for the talents of your staff:
- Assign work tasks to the appropriate staff member
- Allow them the authority to control their work
- Grant them responsibility, but hold yourself accountable for their work
Do not be afraid to loosen your grip on the reigns a bit. Managers should be managing their staff, and their staff should be taking care of the rest. By delegating authority to your staff, you have more time to do what is the heart of your business: strategizing ways to grow your company.
The power of employee empowerment
Allowing your employees to have greater responsibility and authority empowers them. This makes them invested in their work, willing to go above and beyond the status quo for production or sales.
“With power comes responsibility” may sound cliche, but it is true. If a worker is afforded increased autonomy in their role, they will realize a greater sense of responsibility and investment in their work.
This is a boon to your company’s success. On the opposite end, if you have staff that feel like they are wandering in the woods, your business is going to suffer.
At the lower-level, where the greatest responsibility exists, employees have a distinct vantage point than that of the upper-level management. Often, an employee with a specific role will have ideas on how to work more efficiently, or how to increase productivity, in their department or role.
Remember when you were a child, and somebody posited that if a tree falls in the woods, and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? Whether it does or not, nobody hears it.
This applies to the value of authority delegation, and the resulting employee empowerment that it provides. Will your lower-level staff feel comfortable to approach you with cost-saving or production-increasing ideas? If they have a sense of authority in their role, they will. If they feel that they are just a small cog of a giant wheel, they will not.
Empowered employees also feel more comfortable to adapt to change and challenge preconceived notions in the marketplace. In today’s rapidly evolving business world, the ability to keep up with shifting customer demands is a key factor for determining the success of your company. According to a recent study by Pepperdine University, empowered employees have a direct impact on corporate profitability.
In this survey conducted by thepercepts.com, an overwhelming majority of employees are not passionate about their work. Yet, when they are empowered by their employer, they assist the company in achieving a staggering doubling of increase in revenue.
Empowered employees also increase your company’s retention rate, thus saving on training costs and increasing profitability. Keep in mind that 75% of employees quit because of issues with the management, not the organization itself. Delegating authority to your employees erases micromanagement, which is a chief complaint of disgruntled workers.
Having the authority to make decisions lends a sense of pride in oneself for what they are doing. A helpful tip is to make your employees aware that they are being empowered with authority. Put yourself in their shoes: doesn’t a high level of authority sound exciting? As a CEO or upper-level manager, you are still the boss at the end of the day. However, if your workforce is allowed to operate as their own mini-bosses, they will not sweat over having increased responsibility or tasks to be completed.
The equation is stupefyingly simple: Empowered employees = increased revenue.
Be the boss, let them be the workers
As someone that has achieved a leadership position, you have skills, experience, and vision that your subordinates do not. The best way to approach authority delegation is to train, coach, and encourage your staff. Then, also make them aware of their responsibilities and level of autonomy they have in their role.
Delegating authority to your team can not be overstated enough as a practice that will successfully impact your company. Keep in mind, though, that with greater autonomy, also comes a greater requirement for coherent and complete instruction. Your lower-level employees, the ones with the greatest responsibility, will need greater detail in their task assignments than your middle-level employees, who have likely been at your company longer.
After reading this article, meet with your other upper management staff and construct a strategy for implementing authority delegation in your company. The approach will vary by industry and individual company structure, so spend time on your planning. Do not spend time on sharing cute cat memes.
Well, maybe just a little.
About the Author