Effective delegation is the most important skill that a healthcare leader can practice.
Proper delegation frees up an executive’s time and brain space for more pressing, strategic matters, while simultaneously increasing organizational productivity.
Unfortunately, there will always be some work that cannot be delegated even to the most trusted, competent subordinates. Such work typically falls into one of the following categories:
CONFIDENTIAL: A hospital or clinic is often involved in activities that must be closely held for competitive or legal reasons. This includes issues pertaining to mergers and acquisitions, lawsuits, personnel matters, and downsizing.
BUSINESS-CRITICAL: Some matters, although not confidential, are of such importance that no one else can oversee them. Leaders will likely be asked by their superiors to handle such matters personally.
RESOURCE CONSTRAINTS: At times, there are so many concurrent, demanding issues that staff are all at capacity. Good leaders know that they will occasionally have to do work that is “beneath their pay grade” when no one else is available. However, any such reoccurring or prolonged periods are a red flag.
EMERGENCIES: Businesses periodically have all-hands-on-deck problems when everyone must pitch in. These situations usually relate to urgent customer problems or opportunities, and are obligatory.
PATIENT INFORMATION: HIPAA requires that patient information remain confidential. There are clear legal guidelines as to whom, and how, such information can be released. Proceed with great caution when handling such information.
Sometimes, there will be other issues to which you—and only you—can attend as the leader. However, these must be the exception and not the rule. You must avoid falling into the trap of doing everything yourself.
Effective delegation is a balancing act of distributing the tasks that you can pass on and doing the tasks that only you can accomplish.
Under-delegate and you lose both brain space and group productivity. Over-delegate and you risk mistakenly passing on critical work for which you should be responsible.
THE TAKEAWAY: It is best to delegate the tasks you are able to. Healthcare leaders must consider how to leverage the work of their employees rather than doing the work themselves. But, there are some tasks that a leader cannot, and should not, delegate.
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