The Art of Delegating

We are all busy.  We all need to work on getting away a bit more.  But what do we do to help with a heavy work load and to even out our work life balance?  It may be a concept many try to avoid, but we need to embrace and master the art of delegating.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the verb delegate has two meanings:

  1. to choose (someone) to do something; and
  2. to give (control, responsibility, authority, etc.) to someone : to trust someone with (a job, duty, etc.)

As a manager, delegating is part of my job. I have the authority to both select someone for a task and give them the responsibility for the outcome. I also like to work on building trust by showing faith to accomplish a task. This fits the definition. But what are some of the other goals of delegating as a manager? I try to spread certain work around to even out the work load while also getting individuals involved with projects which may not necessarily be a part of their regular assignments. We all have our specific areas of expertise, but being a well-rounded librarian is a nice goal to strive for. As a part of the delegation process, I also do my best to discuss options, time frames for completion, and expected results.

But what about delegating to your peers? This can be more difficult but should still be a part of any library team’s work process. At my library, we have a librarian who is truly an expert in foreign and international legal research. Over the years, we have seen a significant increase in the number of requests for detailed assistance in this area. We are quickly approaching a point where we may need to bring others up to speed in the area and delegate some of the requests. So how are we going to manage this peer-to-peer delegation? We plan to start with the slightly easier requests, assign these to other librarians, and then work with these librarians to make sure they can provide a solid level of assistance in an area which may not be a strength. Our original expert, and potentially me as the department head, will have to pick the right librarians to assist, bring them up to speed, and follow up to gauge the success of the assignment. It may take more time initially than it would to just do the work, but it will help balance work flows in the future and help reach the goal of a well-rounded librarian team.

So how are you at delegating? Do you feel comfortable asking others to help with a project? If this is something you haven’t mastered, there are great checklists for best practices on delegating. It can be an integral part of the librarian world, and in the end, doesn’t everything come down to how we are helping our patrons?  If this can best be accomplished by deferring to others, then we should work on creating more efficient work flows.

This entry was posted in Issues in Law Librarianship, Productivity, Time Management, Work/Life Balance and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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