Don’t Do. Delegate!

The authors of this book contend that the delegation of tasks is the key management skill. By delegating responsibility to subordinates, managers free themselves to concentrate on what should be their principal activity: policy-making.

In an introductory chapter, the authors suggest that delegation will increase the participation of employees in the company’s business, enhance the flexibility and efficiency of the planning process, and ultimately ensure the power of the manager.

Subsequent chapters identify the signs of poor delegation: “subordinates lack initiative. . . . [They] fail to seek [the manager’s] assistance, or seek it too frequently” and seem dissatisfied with their jobs. Successful delegation depends on an interlocking set of interpersonal and professional skills: “If directing and correcting involve talking, and supervising means watching, then coaching requires, above all, listening.”

James M. Jenks and John M. Kelly enliven their ideas by using concrete examples both from recent business news and from literature. Tom Sawyer, they point out, was a poor delegator because he tried to fool his friends into thinking that whitewashing a fence required a “special skill.” Their disappointment at finding the task tedious is similar to the reaction of subordinates who react with “cynicism and loss of respect” to the manager’s “sugar-coating” of an assignment.

Another helpful feature is the series of exhibits: 1) a checklist to find signs of poor delegation; 2) a form to target opportunities to delegate; 3) a delegatee evaluation worksheet; 4) a double-column list of do and don’t delegation practices; and 5) a circle of delegation that shows how responsibility, authority, and accountability are all part of a single successful business cycle. These exhibits, as well as a model dialogue demonstrating how a successful manager approaches a subordinate in order to delegate authority, make this book a handy, reusable tool not only in the study but in the business environment itself.