A local charitable organization has contacted you with a new idea. They want to be the “safety net” for people who need treatment but can’t afford it, or whose insurance company won’t cover it. They’re not quite sure how it’s going to work, or how much money and resources they want to allocate to it, but they want to explore the possibility with you and some of your competitors.This charitable group has explored these types of initiatives before. Some have become good programs, and others were never implemented. You want to be involved in case it works out, but you and all your key people are “up to your eyeballs” in major projects and day-to-day tasks already. Who in your organization can you assign to this project’s preliminary discussions?
Isn’t this always the case? Your plate is already full with high-priority projects and another one comes along. The people you know you can trust with a delegated project are all committed, so you have to dig a little deeper in your organization and delegate the task to someone new. How do you determine who to assign it to, and how do you manage them?
The reality of delegating is, almost anyone of reasonable experience can do the work. The bigger question is how much time and effort will be necessary on your part to make sure the delegated task is handled properly. One way to think about delegation is a poker game. Almost any hand you are dealt can win the pot, but some hands require more strategy and effort to be victorious than others.
The pool of employees you draw from for delegating is much the same way. The relative strengths of the individuals on your team will vary, and you are pretty much left to choose the best “hand” you can for the project. Let’s examine the types of people you have to choose from, assign a relative poker hand value to them, and then see how you must play the hand to win.
The categories of people you can potentially delegate to are called “Flexible Management Types.” Each person brings a different skill set and level of motivation to the task at hand. As a manager you must be flexible, adapting your style to fit their needs and guide them to success.
You can divide your employees into four categories by asking two simple questions: 1) Does the person you delegate the project to have all the ability/knowledge to do it? 2) Is the person secure enough or willing to accept the delegation?
Based on the answers to those two questions, you end up with the following categories of workers and the poker hands they represent:
- Mary: Willing AND capable.
You hired Mary for a front-desk CA position, primarily to schedule and check in patients. Within a month, she had reorganized and updated the appointment book, the referral file system, and the product resource materials. You promoted her to office manager, and within a year, your complaint rate fell to almost zero. Now Mary oversees patient relations as well as the audits of the billing center. Mary is a Royal Flush.
- Jim – Willing, but NOT fully capable.
Jim has been working for you nearly 12 years. He was a janitor/handyman who always volunteered to come in early, stay late, or work on holidays. He made his share of mistakes, but his eagerness and desire caught your eye and you promoted him to services manager. Jim had wonderful ideas for revamping the facility. He explored barcode asset tracking systems, computer terminal upgrades, and wireless patient data systems (some of the ideas you usesd, and some you had to nix because of the cost). In the meantime, Jim’s control of routine expenses had only mediocre success, because he
wasn’t attending to the daily details as closely as he should have been. Jim is a Full House.
- Sheri – Capable, but NOT willing.
Sheri was your most knowledgeable billing person. Whatever the coding regulation, she knew it letter-perfectly. Regardless of what insurance program you asked about, she knew how to solve the problem. There wasn’t a contract or an insurance plan she didn’t know forward and backward. Yet, when you asked her to be the billing supervisor, it took a full year of coaxing to convince her to do it. She has the lowest error rate and the highest recovery rate in the department, and for the last three months you’ve been trying to talk her into a manager’s position. Sheri is a Straight.
- Harold – NOT fully capable and NOT willing.
Harold is a good worker. He produces the desired results in the repair department, but only after he asks a dozen questions as to what exactly needs to be done and how. Harold waits for assignments instead of seeking out additional work on his own. His work is usually completed on time, but only after you’ve reminded him a few times of the deadline. Harold is Two Pair.
Playing the Hands to Win
When it comes to the different types of employees you may have on board, the key is to play the hands you’re dealt strategically – so you have the greatest chance possible of “winning.”
Those strategies include:
- Royal Flush – Workers like Mary are people who are eager to succeed and are clear on how to achieve the results. The manager simply needs to get out of the way and monitor the progress from a distance. You simply tell this type of employee what you want, when you want it, and what their limits are. A Royal Flush worker is the best, because you know the hand will win regardless of how it is played.
- Full House – Workers like Jim are people who want to succeed and are often referred to as “young lions” because they want to take on the world, but they lack the knowledge or maturity to guarantee success. These people must be coached by the manager to assure their enthusiasm doesn’t lead them down the wrong road. The hand still pretty much plays itself to a win, but attention must be given to assure no surprises in the end.
- Straight – Workers like Sheri are people who are reluctant to act for fear of failing and must be sold on the idea of taking on the new task. Once they are sold, they must be nurtured with systematic follow-up and an open-door policy to support them when they are unsure. They have the knowledge, but you have to supply the forward movement. The hand is a potential winner, but it will take skill to force it into a winning position.
- Two Pair – Workers like Harold are people who lack direction or drive, and must be told what to do and when to do it. They can succeed, but the manager must be very clear on what must be done and follow up the progress closely. To ensure success, you must provide the knowledge, resources and the energy. This hand can win, but it will take considerable effort and risk on your part to make it a winner.
The game of poker would be easy to play if every time you sat down you were dealt a Royal Flush. However, the skill involved in poker is to maximize the potential of each hand, as it is dealt to you. And so it is in business.
You sometimes have to delegate to a less-than-perfect candidate. Your task as a manager is to provide the tactics and guile to maximize every staff member’s potential, so you both win.