I was recently asked to lead a workshop on effective delegation. Now lawyers, accountants and surveyors are not silly – they understand that delegation has numerous benefits not least: increased profitability for the firm, a more cost effective solution for clients and development opportunities for junior staff.
Professionals are also perfectly capable of getting to grips with delegation models – whether simple approaches as outlined in books such as “The art of delegation” (Ros Jay and Richard Templar) or those focused on more complex models such as “Delegating legal work” (Altman Weil).
So what’s the problem?
The challenge usually concerns organisational culture and personal habits. These issues are, of course, linked. There are all manner of reasons why people don’t delegate and it is rarely because they do not know how. So here are my top tips for increasing effective and appropriate delegation in your firm:
1. Explore the reasons for non-delegation
There are myriad reasons why partners don’t delegate. It could be the pressure of individual fee targets, client protectionism and preference, concerns about risk, a lack of knowledge or confidence in team members, inadequate time to properly explain the context and nature of the task, a subconscious desire to avoid having more time to develop new business and so on. Understanding the reasons means that you can start to tackle the underlying barriers.
2. Reframe the concept of delegation
Too often, there is dumping rather than delegation. So try thinking about the process in different terms – as a dialogue, as team work sharing or as doing the best for the client. And make sure that the firm’s measurement systems don’t work against the concept.
3. Encourage and empower the delegatees
The onus should not be entirely on those who are delegating work. Those who receive instructions should take responsibility for ensuring that they have all the information that they need, understand the objectives and limits of their authority and to arrange check points and opportunities to seek clarification and confirmation. They must feel comfortable asking questions.
4. Develop an open culture of feedback
Communication is key. There needs to be an open dialogue and communication so that delegators and delegatees are comfortable giving and receiving regular, informal feedback. The professions are known for being good with negative feedback, but there needs to be a balance – people need to know when they have done well too.
5. Remind people regularly about delegation
We work in pressurised times and our brains help us by resorting to well-known habits. So provide regular reminders of the need to delegate so that it stays front-of-mind.
So how can you increase effective delegation at your firm?