Great Delegation Skills All lawyers delegate work. Be it to an detailed below will minimize the risk assistant, paralegal, or another of failure. attorney, leveraging others’ skill sets through delegation is a critical-path • Financial. Lawyers believe that if management tool for lawyers. Getting they give away the work, their the right work to the right people who compensation will be adversely have enough time is the key to the affected. The reality is that efficient and effective completion of leveraging the skills of others allows projects. the delegator to engage in other value-added activities, including Yet many lawyers are poor delegators higher value work, business of work. Why that is and ways to development, etc. improve your delegation skills follow. • Inexperience. As mentioned above, Delegation Roadblocks lawyers lack experience when it comes to delegating properly. There are numerous reasons why Experience comes from doing, so lawyers don’t delegate work or don’t we’ll focus on that. delegate it well, including: Delegation Framework • Individualists. Lawyers are individualists and don’t tend to play Here are some methods to improve well with others. From the time we your delegation skills. entered college, or before, we focused and relied on our own efforts • Organize Your Work. You can’t to succeed. Delegation requires the possibly delegate work effectively or acceptance of a team environment efficiently if you don’t have your own and lawyers just aren’t accustomed house in order. The “messy desk is a to that way of thinking. sign of a great mind” cliché is just that – a cliché. This article doesn’t • Fear. Lawyers fear delegation address professional hygiene, but because: (a) it questions their value there are numerous resources if another can do the work, and (b) available to those that need this the delegator is exposed to negative assistance. The bottom line is – get consequences if the delegatee fails organized! to accomplish the work properly. As for (a), your own worth is tied to your • What Can Be Delegated? work product, not the stack of work Determine what components or on your desk. As for (b) the process projects can be delegated. Factors in this decision include skill set(s) required to accomplish tasks, interest or challenge in the work, and • Align Your Attitude/Expectations. best use of available personnel. For This goes hand-in-hand with the last example, a routine filing can be two points. Remember, it’s almost delegated, as can an ancillary always more efficient for you to deposition, but a key merger simply do the work yourself. negotiation cannot. However, there are only so many billable hours in the day. Aligning • To Whom Can it Be Delegated? your expectations with the work and Staff members can handle repetitive, the person to whom you’re easily completed tasks. Associates delegating it will return a much better can handle more substantive work, result for you both. provided the requisite skills have been developed. Advanced lawyers • Schedule Enough Time to Meet. should handle less defined elements The better you explain the work, its of a project and those that require background, and your expectations application of more advanced critical the first time, the fewer mistakes that thinking skills. Note: one factor to will be made and the less repetition consider is the need to bring newer that will occur. If your delegatee people along, so make sure walks out of your office with a sound everyone is challenged a little. understanding of the task(s), the better able they are to complete it • Define the Project Deliverables without further assistance from you. and Deadlines. One of the worst mistakes delegating attorneys make • Delegate Ownership. Don’t have is to ineffectively define what is your delegatee come back at every expected from the delegatee. What step. Let them know that you want may seem obvious to you is not so them to make decisions on their obvious to a less experienced own. If they truly have a question individual. The same holds true for they can’t figure out, you can always deadlines. It’s likely that you weren’t assist them, but challenge them to always able to draft a complex work through the problem on their complaint in only two billable hours. own. Less experienced people need more time to become efficient. Give them • Obtain Feedback for Confirmation. specific and reasonable guidance on When discussing the project, make your expectations. sure you’re getting feedback that confirms that they understand what • Estimate the Time the Delegated you’re saying. Similarly, feed back to Task Should Take. Providing the them what you’re hearing to ensure delegatee an estimate of how long a you understand what they’re saying. task should take sets parameters around the task, as well as provides • Engage in Progress Updates. them a yardstick to use while doing Make time to check in on the the work. progress of the project. This is especially true if the project is more involved. Just confirming for the delegatee that you’re interested in their progress will: (a) give them a greater sense of pride in the work and (b) provide ample opportunity to facilitate the work being performed. • Debrief if Appropriate. It’s always a good idea to debrief with the person you assigned work to if the project merits it. What went well? What could have gone better? These are opportune moments to greatly improve both the work product and the working relationships. Like all skills, practice makes perfect. Though the list of steps above seems long, the steps are logically interconnected and flow easily once you acclimate yourself to the process. Improving your delegation skills will greatly improve both your own practice and those of the people with whom you work. Paul H. Burton is a former attorney, software executive, and successful entrepreneur. He works exclusively with professionals and professional service firms, providing his clients with consulting, training and coaching on leadership skills, individual productivity, and business development. Paul frequently speaks and publishes on professional development issues. You can learn more about Paul and his practice at www.visionmechanix.com.
Pages to are hidden for
"Great Delegation Skills"Please download to view full document