The art of delegation; managing your time and your staff

We are all guilty of over burdening ourselves – assuming all the responsibility – because, ‘Who else can do it?’ Andrew Blench, school business management consultant at School Business Partner, suggested that perhaps it’s time to consider the art of delegation

Sometimes we convince ourselves that we must labour under an unmanageable workload because, ‘There’s no one here I can delegate to – right?’ I would ask, ‘Is that a fact, or a belief?’

Mapping delegation

Is this an assumption you’ve made or a conclusion you’ve reached after making enquiries of those who work with you and for you? If it’s a fact, then you may have to look for other ways to make your workload more manageable, but why not try a simple exercise to test your belief?

Take a sheet of paper and draw a four-column table. In the first column write on each row the name of someone you relate to in the work context – direct reports, peers, your managers – these names fit here. Head up the next three columns with the words ‘capacity, capability and motivation’. Now, go back and think about each of the names you’ve written down.

For capacity ask, ‘If I were able to delegate tasks to this person would they have the capacity (e.g. time/hours) to take it on?’ For capability ask, ‘Does this person have the skill set required to take on my tasks?’ For motivation the important question to ask is, ‘Assuming they have the capacity and the capability, what is their overall attitude to taking on tasks?’

Know thy team

To my shame, when I did this exercise in my last role using the names of my 24 direct reports, it made me realise that I didn’t know my staff half as well as I thought! I had ignored the fact that people had a life before they started working for us and had skills and experience from other roles which they were now not using.

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I had assumed they wouldn’t have the capacity to take on occasional tasks but, when I approached them, they were pleased I’d asked – happy to add variety to their day. Even if capability and capacity are lacking, is that the end of it? Often others see how overwhelmed we are and want to help alleviate that burden.

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So, ask yourself, can capacity be created with some creative realignment of people’s tasks? Can capability be developed in those who have the capacity but lack the skills?

Test your assumptions

‘It’s not that straightforward,’ you might say. True. There will be people on your list with the capacity and skill set but also a poor attitude to taking on anything that deviates from their job descriptions – a lack of motivation.

I recognise that this exercise has its frustrations and may put a focus on longer-term, people management issues but, in my experience, it also has the potential to test assumptions, as well as create capacity for you and develop your knowledge of your team. But, be careful where you leave your list!

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