Alpha Jones CSFM
Alpha Jones, CSFM

More than Grass with Alpha Jones: Effective Delegation

How many times in recent months have you heard about labor challenges? It may have been a headline on your news feed, a conversation with coworkers or industry counterparts, or you might be dealing with a shortage of available labor at your facility.

Many industries report that there is not enough help, the quality of the work output is down, and employees want more life-work balance rather than work-life balance. The green industry is no different; so how do you combat against the uninterested? A key component is to create a better work environment that includes team members in the process of doing business. One way to meet this challenge is through effective delegation.

As a team member and follower of designated leaders, I have questioned decisions made and asked why we do it that way on more than one occasion. However, when given accountability for making responsible decisions, my appreciation for making those decisions – and the discomfort of having them questioned – helped me reevaluate the work within the building.

A common practice by those in charge – in response to low staffing numbers and rebuttal to their decisions – is to take on the unassigned tasks. Many leaders often feel “the job will not get done correctly or on time unless I do it myself,” “there is no other person on staff who knows how to do it,” or “it will not look right unless I do it.” These approaches help the “doer” personality feel justified in their approach. But this often results in increased stress and work hours, limited time to provide quality effort, and mediocre results. Although the task may have been completed, it is a missed opportunity to provide the best outcomes.

Effective delegation is a methodology that involves assigning tasks and responsibilities to others. This gives employees the authority and control to make decisions, and, more importantly, can improve the workplace environment. It is a skill that will help the leader be more effective and keep the team or department focused on the big picture rather than the day-to-day minutia.

Delegating responsibilities establishes the reputation of a workplace environment that embraces coaching, mentoring and career development. Effective delegation can be a built-in staff development process that provides support and value, includes the employee, and gives them less opportunity to question decisions made.

The process will push the leader out of their comfort zone. It will force the doer leader to ditch the rationales of doing it themselves and instead learn to trust the employees to whom they must delegate. Insecure managers might also lack self-confidence or feel the employee might outshine their own work. Or a manager might simply not know how to delegate.

The best way to be effective in delegating is to analyze the task. Are there multiple steps to follow? If so, which ones must be done first? If the steps are not followed, will this create problems? Know what successful completion of the task looks like.

For example, spreading fertilizer requires several steps. Getting good results starts with knowing where you want to apply and the size of the area, because the application rate helps determine how much product is needed. If delegating this job, details like this must be understood by the person performing the task. Be able to describe – in a way the other person will understand – what a successful application looks like. If the picture is not clear, the result might be fertilizer burn or uneven color to the grass.

Choosing the right team member to whom you delegate the task is as important or more important than the task itself. The trust given when assigning an important task should assure the employee that they are a valued and important part of the process. Their significance will become more apparent as the task is performed and matches the description of what successful completion looks like.

Effective delegation may not overcome the limited quantity of staff members, but it will improve the quality of the work and the work environment. Success is only as great as the diversity of the path traveled to get there.

Alpha Jones, CSFM, is director of field operations for the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, MiLB affiliate of the Houston Astros. He also serves on the SFMA Board of Directors as Secretary-Treasurer.