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Delegation is an art, not a science, but there are some concrete steps you can take.
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, the tech company he co-founded more than two decades earlier was on the brink of failure. Apple's sales had plummeted by 30 percent and Microsoft was now the dominant computer company in the market.
Jobs got to work reducing the number of Apple products by 70 percent, and the rest is history. What he learned was simple and became one of his most well-known quotes: "Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do."
He’s right. Trying to do everything is a recipe for disaster. And while this was a principle that he applied to Apple’s products it can also most certainly apply to one’s leadership style. Successful leaders know they must delegate.
Delegation is an art - not a science. You can’t put a number on it or simply tell someone that they need to delegate 30 percent of what they currently do. Delegation needs to be defined for each individual. When we advise dentists in executive coaching leadership programs, one of the areas that we focus on is slimming down the responsibilities handled by the dentist. And that means delegation.
The first question that should be asked is whether or not a doctor needs to perform this task. We recently counseled a client to write down every non-clinical task that was performed in the practice. We kept a log for approximately two weeks and in that time we were able to determine that 22 percent of the tasks did not have to be performed by the doctor. This included answering questions that the team could easily have answered but still continued to ask the doctor. They were trained to bring everything to him, which led to wasted time and high stress.
The five steps of delegation
Once you’ve identified the tasks that need to be delegated, you must clearly communicate them to the team so they know exactly what to do. If you follow the five steps of delegation below, you will be able to effectively communicate with your team.
When we help practices implement the five steps of delegation, it can initially be uncomfortable. When the team members ask questions that doctors feel could be easily answered by them the response is, “That’s a good question. What do you think?” It does not take long for staff to realize that it is better to make a decision on their own rather than wasting time and energy by asking the doctor.
Delegation is a great solution for helping busy dentists and a fantastic way to build motivation and responsibility in your team, but only if it’s handled properly. Use these five steps of delegation to help move tasks off your plate and make them the responsibility of your team members.