A recent Gartner report noted that a CIO’s responsibilities no longer apply only to directing the IT staff, but include working with customers, stockholders, supply-chain partners, and even government regulators. With all the added work, delegating duties is a necessity.
“Delegating is a very ripe issue with my clients recently,” said Scott Sargis, founder of Chicago-based executive recruiting firm Strategic Search Corporation. “Upper management is trying to get more with less, certainly in the IT space.”
Delegating offers a multitude of benefits: You'll accomplish more with assistance from others, reduce stress by sharing responsibilities, and increase the self-esteem and confidence of direct reports. Before you start delegating, you'll need to perform adequate planning to avoid a staff revolt and potential morale issues.
Assigning mission-critical tasks and handing over decision-making authority to others can backfire. Occasionally, even a well-meaning subordinate can botch up the works. And then there’s the problem of spending precious time explaining what the delegated tasks entail.
Other dangers, such as falling out of touch with delegated projects and even being viewed by peers as lazy for delegating in the first place, are lesser, but still real dangers.
Career consultant Nick Corcodilos, of Ask the Headhunter, said CIOs should take some well-thought out measures when delegating work. First, create a war room, he said.
“What a great CIO will do is pull in his best people—and I don’t mean necessarily the direct reports—he’ll want to pull in staff down in the ranks that he recognizes are the people that really make the operation go,” explained Corcodilos, describing a delegating team approach.
He suggests a small team—no more than five or six. “You call them into the war room once a week and sit down and say, ‘Look, this is what we’re faced with—it’s impossible—there is no way to make this whole thing work with the resources I have right now.'”
The focus, he said, is to take the approach that the team needs to work together to get through the tasks that must be done.
“The CIO’s message is this: ‘We’ve got to decide what fronts we’re going to line up our resources on, what battles we’re going to fight, and what things can we relegate to six months from now,'” said Corcodilos.
Delegating tips from members
According to TechRepublic member NetPa100, the key to successful delegating is knowing how to do the work that you need to hand off.
“[A CIO should] delegate if they know the work and are sure of what the [end] result is going to look like so they can verify what the employee has done,” he said, responding to a peer discussion on the topic. This might mean that “at least initially, they’ll have to perform both roles,” to make sure they know what’s involved, he added.
Another key element is not taking the helping hands for granted, said member Dharv, who described a 10-week project that required a lot of staff overtime and significant traveling to the client’s site.
“I made sure that anyone working after 6:00 P.M. ate dinner, whether they went out or we stayed in and ordered pizza, and the project paid for it.” Dharv noted that when the workers showed up at the remote site for work after an all-day drive, the team spent the first night sharing dinner and a few beers.
“They told me that managers had never done that before,” he said, adding that it helped unify and create a good team atmosphere. “My team was more productive than I could have imagined,” he said.
Unifying the effort
Helping out staff and showing appreciation are crucial to motivating them to take on the extra work you delegate. After all, you're not the only overworked employee on the payroll.
“If you have a CIO who is willing and is sincerely interested in getting help in an impossible situation, I think people are going to be motivated to go do it,” said Corcodilos.
Executive recruiter Sargis advised incorporating a personal touch into the delegation effort.
“The key theme is connection,” he said. A good way to make the connection is to provide team leisure time—an outing or after work event.
“There are a lot of things a CIO can do that don’t necessarily cost a great deal of money. I think executives need to go back to more personal kinds of things. Perhaps on a Friday have a social event that’s not too costly to create camaraderie,” he said.
These types of efforts will give you a closer connection with your people, and when “they’re more on a personal level, employees are more likely to believe them about cutbacks and taking on more work,” he added.
Sargis gave one warning about the personal touch. “The big caveat is that you don’t spend too much money on these kinds of things. There will be a huge backlash if employees suspect you’re making cutbacks—and at the same time you’re throwing parties.”
Corcodilos also supports using a personal touch in getting employees on board when delegating more work. The worst approach, he said, is to cram it down the throats of staff members by stating, “‘Look, you don’t have any choice. You’ve got to get this stuff all done.’” That approach will immediately create a negative effect.
“You’ll start alienating everybody on your team, and your resources are going to dwindle down below the troublesome numbers you’ve already got,” he said.
Delegating extra work to staff isn’t something any CIO gets excited about, but it’s a growing mandate, said Corcodilos.
“CIOs looking for the magic answer to get more out of a tight budget are now finding it ain’t gonna happen. They’ve got to face the fact they need to cope with delegating tasks down the chain.”