One would think, given the human-centric focus of most nonprofit organizations, they would be great examples of post-industrial leadership styles. Rather than a top-down management style they would exhibit the best traits of current, collaborative leadership. Unfortunately, that is not often the case.
There may be a couple of reasons why this is so:
One suggestion is, nonprofit organizations tend to be more collegial, have flatter management structures, and have a kind hearted approach to their employees. Therefore, leaders in these organizations are reluctant to burden staff and volunteers with delegated work.
Another suggestion says, the type of personality, drive and ability it takes to become a nonprofit leader often adds up to “control freak” (I can relate).
However, the inability or unwillingness to delegate is one of the biggest problems managers face. Delegation is one of the most important management skills for managers and leaders. The benefits are substantial, both for the leader, for staff, and for the organization.
- Saves time for the manager to focus on things only they can do.
- Ensures tasks are assigned to staff with skills to do the job.
- Gives staff opportunity to develop.
- Motivates and engages staff.
So, how do we delegate effectively?
- Plan – know what needs to be done, and be able to explain it clearly to the one receiving the task. Understand the skills required to complete the task, the outcomes expected, etc. Nothing is worse than setting-up someone for failure by giving them a job that is not clearly defined, and not matched to their skill-set.
- Define – Ensure the person receiving the task understands what is to be achieved with specific and measurable results; how they are responsible for producing the required outcomes; the deadline for completing task/project; what their level of decision-making authority is.
- Monitor – don’t micro-manage, but provide enough oversight to enable the job to be completed: schedule regular progress meetings; make yourself available to provide clarification; communicate effectively.
- Be patient – If delegating is not currently an active part of your management toolbox, it’s going to take time for it to work fully. The first time you delegate a task, staff may lack confidence in the process, and come to you more frequently, or proceed carefully, taking more time that might be necessary. Stick to it, be consistent. The more you staff gets comfortable with the process and results, the more confident and efficient they will be come. Don’t dismiss delegation at the first hiccup, but support the process to see more effective results.
When you invest the time and energy to delegate, you increase personal and organizational effectiveness. You improve communication, build skills and competency, and strengthen employee engagement. Effective delegation makes others better and ensures that even when you are absent your leadership impact is still present.