The Art and Science of Delegation

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Having visited hundreds of advisers’ offices, I find it intriguing to study the process of delegation. To start off, two important questions must be answered:

  1. Who is the delegator?
  2. Who will be delegated to?

The delegator: At one end of the spectrum, I’ve observed the laissez faire adviser. He or she delegates everything—administrative work, creating plans, customer service, analytical research, operations, investment management, establishing and maintaining client relationships, and running the company. At the other end of the spectrum is the adviser who believes, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” These individuals are by nature attentive to detail, precise and conscientious. They may have more of a challenge delegating than those who are more tolerant of risk and uncertainty.

The delegatee: The individual to whom one delegates also has his or her own modus operandi. Some jump at the chance to take on more; others are shy or cautious about having something more added to their plate.

Although there is certainly some art involved in deciding to whom to delegate which task, there is also a science component. It incorporates three questions designed to measure the fit between the task, project or function to be delegated and the individual to whom you intend to assign the work. Does the delegatee have:

  1. The knowledge/ability to do the work?
  2. The experience to do the work?
  3. The motivation to do the work?

The more “no” answers, the greater the risk of successfully delegating the task or project; the more “yes” answers, the greater the probability of successful delegation.

Growth-oriented advisers have no choice but to master delegation. But, according to Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What To Do About It, in order to delegate with confidence, entrepreneurs need systems and processes in place. They also need the requisite management competence to monitor what they delegate.

When you begin to delegate or are delegating to someone new, start small, assigning pieces of a project rather than an entire large project. The newer the process is to the delegator or the delegatee, the more frequent the monitoring needs to be.

For more about this topic, see my article “Guidelines for Good Delegation” in the November/December issue of Practice Management Solutions magazine.

Joni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.

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