How to Delegate

Why is it that some managers are typically running out of time while their staffs are typically running out of work


One of the coolest things about AIESEC is that it allows you to try so many new things in a relatively safe environment. From new ideas for projects to new leadership styles. However, I don’t know how many people make the most of the latter. Back when I was a Vice President, I spent a lot of time reading articles online about marketing and about leading a team. However, I rarely read any personal development books, let alone put them into use.

Just recently, I met up with one of AIESEC Laurier’s board member along with my president, Carson. One of the things that we talked about was managing a team and Carson was kind enough to not only suggest reading a book but actually lent me the book The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkeyby William Oncken et al.

The whole purpose of this book is about task management and delegation – Why is it that there are many team leads who complain about having no time and a lot of members saying that they have no work?

This post is going to summarize the book and also going to tell everyone how I will incorporate what I’ve learnt into my future team leader roles.

A Monkey is the Next Move

With any next move, there is only one person responsible for executing and one person to supervise. One of the biggest problems for team leads is that they feel like they must be the ones to come up with a solution and so they tell their team that they will look into it and come up with a solution. Your members are then more reliant on you making the decisions for them and hence they will continue to do just that in the future. To top it off, you are almost telling them that they are not capable of handling the problem. So instead of telling them that you will look into it, why not ask them to create a proposed solution along with the pros and cons. Doing so will instantly show that you trust your members, your members will get more freedom to think themselves and most importantly, you will continue supporting your team instead of slowing everyone down (if they were all waiting on you).

The more you get rid of your people’s monkeys, the more time you have for your people

When you’re in a team lead position in AIESEC, you have to realize that results isn’t the only thing that you are responsible for. You are also responsible for delivering the experience that your team was promised when they first signed up. This means that they have to be given the challenges and the room to grow. After all, what good is it if you were the only one carrying your team’s results? What will happen to the organization once you are out of the picture? By growing your team’s ability, not only will the results of your whole team grow much bigger, but they will all feel valued and continue to put their efforts into growing this organization.

The more you get rid of your people’s monkeys, the more time you have for your people.

How will I make sure I do this? Well the plan right now is to tell any future team that I lead that this is one of my goals at our first meeting. This was something that I always tried to remember when I was VP and I is still one of my cores. I’ve grown dramatically as a person thanks to AIESEC and it’s only right for me to help as many people as I can get that same experience.

Oncken’s Rule of Monkey Management

Now that I hope you see the importance of giving your team the full responsibility of the tasks assigned to them, let’s now look at how it should be done. When a team lead is discussing a monkey with a member, the conversation should not end until the following are set:

Rule 1 – Descriptions – The “next move” is specified

An appropriate next move is set, even if it’s a “I’ll look more into this”. This way, it is clear to both people that progress will be made. The benefit of doing this is that the person who raised the issue will do a better job planning before bringing it up and will also give the person a chance to come up with a solution which leads to more ownership of the project.

Rule 2 – Owners – The monkey is assigned to a person

Ownership of the next move needs to be assigned to a person. If you leave it unspoken, there is a good chance that nothing will happen and no one can be held accountable for it. As for who should be assigned the next move, it should almost always be the member as they are the ones who should have more time and knowledge to handle it. This also goes back to when I previously stated that a team leads role is to provide the experience. If they are always working on executing and fixing, there is no time for providing the experience. Remember:

The only way to develop responsibility in people is to give them responsibility

Rule 3 – Insurance Policies – The risk is covered

All the next moves need to have some sort of insurance. This is the only way to balance your teams freedom in handling the next move while making sure your responsibility of the outcome is maintained. The idea here is that the insurance is designed to make sure only affordable mistakes can happen. There are two main ways to make this happen:

1 – Recommend then Act

This should only be used if you feel there is a reasonable risk that an affordable mistake would happen if left to your member. In order to still give your members a chance to tackle the issue and to keep your time free, get your members to do an analysis and recommend the next step.

2 – Act then Advise

As the subheading suggests, the member should continue owning the project and the outcome. The advise comes during the follow up time.

Of course, it makes no logical sense to tell members how which approach will be used everytime. Instead, what I would do is start off with the first one as default until both the member and myself are aware of each other’s thought process and once the trust is establish, I’d move it to level 2.

Practice Hands off Management as much as Possible and Hands on Management as much as Necessary

That is, encourage level 2 insurance as much as possible and only make it a requirement for level 1 insurance when necessary.

Rule 4 – Follow up

Lastly, a follow up date and time should be discussed. The idea here is to catch members doing things right and praising them for it or to catch problems and take proper measures before it becomes a crisis. In AIESEC, with most things only having two chances (recruitment), the follow up can be as early as the next day. The more times you’re able to catch people doing things right, the more trust you will have in them and hence, the more freedom of delegation will be given.

With these set of rules, I’m hoping that members will see that they are constantly being challenged, their views are valued and that team leads will not burn out while team members go around saying that they don’t do anything in AIESEC. All in all, I’m hoping to increase the buy in for AIESEC as that is the only way to see substantial growth.

For those who are interested in learning more, I highly suggest reading the book. For those who rather read summaries, download it here. Are there any comments or questions about this idea?


One response to “How to Delegate

  1. Pingback: 7 Keys to Becoming a More Effective Manager |·

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