Delegating Is Hard to Do

Being a one-man or one-woman band in radio engineering has one advantage: You never have to tell anyone what to do August 14, 2017

Being a one-man or one-woman band in radio engineering has one advantage: You never have to tell anyone what to do.

When you do all the work yourself, there’s no explaining the steps (or the goal) to another person. It’s all in your head or on a list, and you move forward, consulting no one else. No questions; no interruptions; no second guessing. It’s kind of nice.

However, if you ever find yourself applying for a larger position, with staff to manage, you might find yourself asked this: “Can you delegate effectively?” Hopefully, you can answer that question with a “yes,” but let’s take a moment to delve into the subject. I’ve learned enough to speak with some authority on it (or so my coworkers tell me).

The goal of delegation is to have someone do a project that, for whatever reason, you cannot or should not be doing. Clearly, if you have a multi-person staff, there is more work than one person can do. You may find yourself doing higher-level management task (for example, working on engineering budgets), and while that is going on, you can’t also install a transmitter, for example.

So you delegate the project. In so doing, you should make sure the goal is clear: The transmitter needs to be effectively installed and working by such-and-such a date. A certain amount of resources need to be made available to the person or persons doing the work. Explain how to obtain them (if that person doesn’t already know how). Don’t knock the station off the air while doing the work.

That’s it. You now turn back to what you were doing before.

But wait, you say. How do I know it’ll be done right? The answer is that you don’t. That’s it. The hard part of delegating is trusting that the delegate will do the job right.

But shouldn’t I go visit the transmitter to see that the job is going well? No. That’s called micro-management. If you are doing that, the person to whom you delegated will get this message: I’m not really trusted to do this correctly. As a manager, that’s the last thing you want. Staff has to trust you, and the way you establish that is by trusting them.

It’s obviously important to delegate a job to a person who you know can do it well. After you’ve done that, let them alone.

When the delegate says the job is done, you can then check to see how well it went. Here’s another thing about delegation: Don’t expect that it will be done exactly as you would have done it yourself. If the goal is met on time and satisfactorily, then the delegate did it right.

Don’t micromanage after the fact, either. In other words, if your delegate used blue wire instead of black, that’s too bad. If they ran the wires up the left hand side of the rack instead of the right, that’s too bad.

Many of us have very particular ways we like to do things, but when you start managing a staff, you have to let them handle the details. If you can’t do that, answer “no” to that interview question.

Thanks for reading this month’s issue and have a great last month of summer!

Receive regular news and technology updates. Sign up for our free newsletter here.