Delegating Tasks, Not Accountability

The Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SM&CR), which will apply to solo-regulated firms from December 2019, aims to make it clearer where responsibilities lie within an organisation. People who hold Senior Management Functions (SMFs) cannot delegate overall responsibility for the areas in which they have oversight and accountability, even if they delegate day-to-day management duties to others. The Senior Manager Conduct Rules (SC3) requires Senior Managers to ‘take reasonable steps’ to ensure that any delegation of responsibilities is to an ‘appropriate person’ and Senior Managers must ‘oversee the discharge of the delegated responsibility effectively’.

What is ‘effective delegation’ and why is it important? The art of delegation is a crucial management skill in all sectors, not just firms subject to regulation.

There is only so much that we can get done in a working day. Even the hardest-working and most gifted manager cannot do everything. Effective managers recognise the need to entrust tasks and responsibilities to others to achieve organisational goals.

Some people find it hard to delegate. They may not wish to give up control or they believe they can do the task better than a subordinate could do. They might argue that it is quicker to do the work themselves rather than to spend time training someone else. Some people may want to do certain tasks simply because they enjoy doing them. However, this is not an effective way to manage. It runs the risk of micromanagement, overburdening yourself, and not making efficient use of your team and their potential.

Of course, sometimes delegation does not work. Bad delegation occurs in a number of circumstances and is likely to occur if the person who has been assigned the task:

  • is not suited to that particular activity;
  • has not been given sufficient instruction or training (i.e. they are not competent);
  • is not yet ready for new responsibilities;
  • is not offered sufficient support; or
  • is overwhelmed with work.

Therefore, the decision to delegate needs to be made wisely. When deciding to delegate a task, you should consider the following:

  • Is the task preventing you from doing something more productive with your time?
  • Is someone else qualified or able to carry out the task to the sufficient standard?
  • If the task needs to repeated on a regular basis, is there someone who can be trained to take over the responsibility?
  • Is there sufficient time and resources to train someone?
  • Will delegating the task help someone with their career progression and development?

If you answer ‘yes’ to these questions, and it is not essential that you need to carry out the task yourself, consider delegating it.

There are times, however, when it is best not to delegate. Remember, as a manager, you cannot delegate accountability and overall responsibility. You remain in-charge, even if you delegate tasks to other people. The ‘buck stops with you’ and you cannot blame your subordinates if things go wrong. Therefore, you should delegate carefully and take on the most important and high-risk tasks. If the consequences of failure are high, it is best not to delegate.

Delegation can bring many benefits. By delegating to the right person, they will take ownership of the task and do it well. This will increase the efficiency of your team and reduce the burden on you. Delegation can also be empowering for staff. It provides a tool for staff development and succession planning by trusting junior employees with more responsibility. By taking on new tasks, junior staff will gain more experience and confidence in their work. It is an effective way to provide training for people who may one day become senior managers, allowing your organisation to think about the future.

When delegating a task, it is important to ensure that you continue to provide support. You should describe the task to the person you are handing it to; make clear your expectations and provide enough information for the person to carry out the task. This includes explaining what needs to be done, how success will be monitored and what the deadlines are. Remember to be on hand to answer any questions and to review delegated work, as appropriate.

About the author

Nathan joined RWA in 2016 on successfully completing his PhD. He previously worked in the private, public and charitable sectors. Nathan leads the content and professional standards team at RWA and is responsible for managing and curating technical content on the Aviva Development Zone and the award-winning My Development Zone e-learning platforms.

Since joining RWA, Nathan has written hundreds of business skills e-learning modules and assessments on a variety of subjects, including leadership and management, communication skills, human resources, employability, regeneration, citizenship and equalities.

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