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Delegating or dumping: Know the difference

Spearheading daily challenges and taking on the unexpected is expected. But let’s face it—no leader can do everything by themselves.

Spearheading daily challenges and taking on the unexpected is expected. But let’s face it—no leader can do everything by themselves.

Why it matters: Delegation is one of the most essential skills of management. It not only takes some of the workload off the shoulders of a leader, but it gives your team the opportunity to grow and learn in the process.

A delegation of authority is a document that identifies the most effective model of distributing responsibilities and power to those involved in certain decisions. The best example is how those at the entry level handle more routine responsibilities while senior management focuses on strategic tasks.

Yes, but: The concept of delegation is often misunderstood, with some leaders mistakenly viewing it as simply a means of offloading tasks onto others. A fine line is drawn between delegating tasks and simply dumping unwanted tasks onto others.

To delegate means to trust and assign a task to someone, usually letting them complete the task in their own way to cultivate growth.

  • When you dump tasks on others, you usually are having someone do the work you do not feel like doing (even if you have the time).
  • For example, giving a team member a task and telling them there’s no need to follow up with you on it while showing little to no interest in ever coming back to the task.

By the numbers: One in every four credit managers say they struggle to properly delegate tasks to their team, according to an eNews poll.

Some leaders may stay away from delegating because they:

  • Feel guilty for adding extra work to their team’s to-do list.
  • Want to complete the task themselves, feeling the need to micromanage and have it done their way.
  • Think it will take longer to explain the task than to finish it themselves.
  • Lack confidence in who they need to delegate the task to.

Regardless of the reason, not knowing how to delegate properly can lead to negative consequences. Overloading your calendar and to-do list can lead to burnout, and dumping tasks meaninglessly onto your team creates a hostile work environment. So, here are a few ways to delegate effectively.

Know What to Delegate

To avoid dumping, you have to know exactly what tasks you want your team to complete.

  • “Our supervisors and I ensure a thorough identification of which people on our team can be stretched by taking on additional assignments,” said Chris Montross, CCE, manager of credit services at W.W. Grainger, Inc. (Charlotte, NC).
  • “We know who we can delegate to and who we cannot. Of course, bandwidth may vary from day to day, so we always need to check in with the team member to ensure they can and want to take on the additional work before we assign it.”

Credit professionals often assign specific credit tasks to their team, like making collection calls or conducting preliminary credit review investigations. The key is to balance task assignments and tap into each team member’s strengths.

“I am a manager who likes to keep my team challenged and keep them on their toes,” said Terri Eggebeen, assistant manager, credit/collection specialist at Fechheimer Brothers Company (Cincinnati, OH). “Being in credit and collections can sometimes get a bit tedious and monotonous, so when I’m delegating tasks, I am looking for what will help my team grow. Sometimes, if I have a lot on my plate and something comes up, then it’s easy to ask a team member to help me out with something.”

Allow Room for Failure

Always remember, a delegated task might fail, but with consistent practice, success is achievable. Discover your team’s professional growth areas before you delegate tasks. This proactive approach significantly lowers the risk of tasks being done incorrectly.

“When we have high-level, high-visibility work that has a tight deadline, we give it to those who have more expertise,” said Montross. “When it is more exploratory work or work that has a longer lead time, we may assign that to the team member who wants to develop. Oftentimes, we may even pair the person who has the strength with the person who is developing together to ensure quality work is being done while providing the mentorship.”

Delegation requires a balance of trust, communication and strategic oversight. Leaders must foster a culture of accountability in order for delegation to thrive. Empower your team members while ensuring tasks are completed to the highest standards.

It begins with explaining the tasks to them, then letting them do it once or twice alone as I give my feedback and corrections to them,” said Ramez Kasbah, head of accounts receivable at Sallaum Lines SA (Beirut, Lebanon). “Once they receive the feedback, I will transfer the task for them to do on a weekly or daily basis. The process is organized, so I make sure there is not much trouble with balancing delegation versus dumping tasks.”

Open Communication

It is important to find the balance of not micromanaging while still making sure progress is being made on the assigned task. Regular check-ins and follow-ups on how they are doing can help communication flow so that the team member is comfortable and you, as the manager, can breathe.

Eggebeen said she is a hands-on manager but knows when to back out so that she does not micromanage. “I don’t believe that you can be an effective manager without being a part of your team, so, I integrate myself into the team and don’t hide away in my office waiting for them to come to me,” she said. “I believe that knowledge is power, and if you don’t give your team the power and tools to be effective, then when you are not around when an executive decision needs to be made, they will not be able to feel comfortable being there without you. If I do not communicate how things are done and what I expect in certain situations, I’m not empowering them to make the right decisions.”

The bottom line: Delegation is not just about mindlessly assigning tasks but also about empowering team members to take ownership and grow professionally, ultimately leading to a more efficient and effective work environment.

Kendall Payton, editorial associate

Kendall Payton is an editorial associate at NACM National. As a writer who covers all things in B2B trade credit, her eNews stories and Business Credit magazine articles are crafted to keep B2B credit professionals abreast of industry trends. When she’s not in writer mode, she’s hosting the Extra Credit podcast or leading NACM’s Credit Thought Leaders forum—a platform for credit leaders to network and discuss challenges and solutions. Though writing and podcasting have become her strong suits, Kendall loves to edit and create video content in her free time.