Key Secrets To Successful Delegation

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By Lynn Homisak, PRT

Clarify the job. Being vague sets your staff up for failure. Provide a complete and accurate description of the job they are about to undertake as well as the reasons why they are undertaking this endeavor. Remember, simply telling someone is not the same as teaching him or her. Proactively take the time to show a staffer how he or she should do the task. Explain as you go along and review possible roadblocks and solutions. Be sure to inform staffers as to whether there is a deadline they need to be aware of so they can prioritize effectively. Finally, make the necessary resources available and provide coaching that allows them to be successful in their efforts.

Manage the job. Just because you passed it on, it does not mean you cannot stay involved by reviewing progress or providing needed supervision. The challenge is learning to differentiate between managing and micromanaging. Micromanaging (a.k.a. nitpicking, controlling, breathing down someone’s neck, meddling, interfering) restricts independent thinking and creative ideas. Do you wonder why? Realize that someone else may have an approach different than yours and yet can achieve similar results. While it may be painful for you to accept at first, allow the staffer to take an alternate path. It might even be a better one.

Convey your expectations and insist on quality as an end result. If you become too lenient and let mistakes go unacknowledged, you will end up redoing the work and, when all is said and done, will have accomplished nothing. People are not mind readers. Unless you successfully communicate your expectations, they cannot possibly understand how best to meet them.

Provide incentive. Praise and reward the action, especially for a job well done.  Everyone likes to feel his or her work and efforts are appreciated. When praising, be specific. Do not just mumble “nice job” as you pass by. Even if you mean it, it comes across as an insincere, empty attempt at praise. Instead, spell out why you are praising a particular staffer. “Sue, the patient history you took today was very thorough … It made my work much easier.” Rewards for excelling at a given job or task are a great morale builder. In fact, building self-confidence, providing incentives, showing appreciation and rewarding good behavior often results in repeated good behavior.  

In Conclusion

I have found that many doctors (by their own admission and for whatever reason) have difficulty “letting go.” They were trained (and feel obligated) to carry out the task by themselves and do not give a second thought that these tasks could possibly be successfully transferred to someone of equal competence. It is analogous to the “I would rather do it myself” syndrome except there is currently no magical antidote capable of changing one’s behaviors.

Change is still something we must do for ourselves and we can (change) if the reasons for doing so (or the consequences of not doing so) are understood and accepted. 

I can tell you that new, revenue-generated opportunities exist in your practice if you are willing to commit to making moderate changes. Take your practice to the next level by simply removing some basic time-consuming tasks off your plate and delegating them to your very capable, trained staff. Follow the guidelines shown above and put that “do it yourself syndrome” to rest for good.

For related articles, see “How To Maximize Staff Productivity” in the November 2005 issue of Podiatry Today. Also check out the archives at

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