The Art of Delegation
Delegating tasks is sometimes difficult for many of us in the veterinary profession. It’s not so much that we don’t want to delegate, rather the difficulty is in “letting go”.
We often also struggle with a lack of confidence that the results will be as stellar as we’d prefer. As a result, team members can be heard saying, “Oh, it’s just easier to do it myself.” Doctors have a reasonable concern when they say, “It’s my license on the line and I’m not willing to take a chance that something will go wrong.” These perspectives and concerns are understandable yet the advantages of effective delegation present positive and far-reaching results for the health of the practice.
A practice manager recently expressed frustration as he discussed not having enough time within the work week to complete all of his responsibilities. As a result, he takes work home so he doesn’t get farther behind.
Question: “Have you ever evaluated what tasks could possibly be delegated to team members?”
Practice Manager: “I’ve been there, done that and it’s bitten me every time. Now, I just do everything myself and as a result, I take work home with me. I work about forty-five hours a week at the practice and another ten hours at home.”
Question: “What’s your personal level of job satisfaction?”
Practice Manager: “I love the work, but to tell you the truth, I am extremely burned out. There is always so much to do and if I don’t do it myself, it won’t get done. I also don’t feel that I can take time off any time soon. The practice owner also has a difficult time with delegating. After all, it is his license that’s at stake.”
Effective delegation does not mean anyone can do anything at anytime, it means taking the appropriate steps so more team members can be part of the process of helping achieve practice goals. Some of the reasons delegation doesn’t happen include:
Why We Don’t Delegate
• Lack of trust
• Untrained team
• Lack of confidence
• It’s never worked before
• Job security
• Easier to do it myself
• Risks are too high
Benefits of Effective Delegation
Effective delegation impacts the entire practice, including clients and patients:
Delegating medical and client communication tasks to the support team frees the doctor to perform veterinary medicine. Effective delegation increases efficiency and allows the doctor to treat additional medical cases, which then translates to increased practice revenue. Practice owners who have confidence and trust in their management team can further concentrate on the medicine instead of dealing with management details.
Example: Once the doctor performs an examination, technicians may be leveraged by placing catheters and setting fluid pumps while the doctor moves on to examine other in-house patients.
Does your practice provide the necessary training in order to fully leverage the medical support team?
Managers who effectively delegate to team members are more available to assist with the big picture responsibilities. Delegation to team members is not intended to be about “job dump”; instead it’s intended to be about job enrichment. According to the Society of Human Resource Management’s 2010 job satisfaction report, team members realize increased job satisfaction when they are invited to be part of organizational processes. Delegating to team members will help prevent management burnout and increase overall practice productivity.
Example: A manager could delegate the sending of thank you cards to new clients and pet loss/bereavement communication to clients whose pets have recently passed.
Does your team know the practice provides such communication to clients?
Team members frequently struggle with delegating tasks or asking for help and the reasons are similar to those of doctors and managers. Failure to delegate often includes such messages as, “I’d rather do it myself” or “That’s my job. Again, training is vital in order to build competence and confidence among all team members. It’s critical for team members to open up and share their wealth of knowledge so they may reach out and support each other when times become challenging.
Example: A receptionist who feels overwhelmed asks the new receptionist to assist with preparing the patient records for the next day’s appointments.
Does your practice have an orientation process and mentor system integrated within the training process?
Patients and Clients
Effective delegation also positively impacts client service and patient care, especially in regard to client communication. Clients don’t always have to hear only from the doctor. The support team is quite capable of providing helpful information and updates that will relieve client anxiety. Problems occur when clients don’t hear from anyone or an expected return phone call takes too long.
Example: A technician calls the client to inform them of great news. The results of the intestinal parasite screening that was submitted during Toto’s wellness examination are negative and no parasites are present.
Does your practice incorporate the support team in the client communication process?
Costs of Ineffective Delegation
There are costs associated with ineffective delegation and these typically occur when the appropriate steps are not established. Patient care and client service will be negatively impacted if the how-to’s and team training are not effectively communicated to team members. Effective delegation requires establishing the necessary steps in order to realize the best results.
Steps to Effective Delegation
a. Responsibilities and tasks
b. Time necessary to complete task
c. Value of delegating and opportunity costs
d. Team members appropriate for task
a. Purpose of task
b. Team members how to execute tasks
c. Timeline necessary to complete task
d. Authority levels: how far can they go?
a. Your effort
b. Your confidence
c. Your team
d. Your vision
a. Effects and net results
c. Possible changes
d. Additional opportunities
What Does Art Have to Do with It?
In order for a practice to realize positive results through delegation, the practice culture needs to believe in the potential benefits. Delegation is a process and exchange that impacts all team members on so many levels and when it is performed effectively, the practice team will wonder why they didn’t engage in it sooner. All the time and effort invested in practicing effective delegation will at some point be fully appreciated…just like a piece of fine art.
Society of Human Resource Management Research Report, 2010 Employee Job Satisfaction, Investigating What Matters Most to Employees.