I recently provided management training for a civil engineering firm and this question came up multiple times. Civil engineering managers struggle with delegation for many reasons, but when they do actually start to delegate, a huge challenge they face is balance. How do you find the balance between not checking in enough with your staff, and micromanaging them?
Here are three specific actions you can take to help you strike this balance in your delegation efforts.
If you delegate a task that isn’t too overwhelming, your staff shouldn’t need too much oversight. For example, instead of asking someone to design a stormwater system, ask them to do the initial watershed analysis and then report back to you. While you may still check in with them from time to time, even if you don’t, it’s a small enough task that if they get off track, they should easily be able to get back on it with some guidance. This is better than working 40 hours on a task that has to be completely redone.
2. Create a routine for checking in.
If you are worried that your staff might see you as a micromanager, you can alleviate those concerns by setting up routine check-ins with them. For example, you might sit with your team members, whether together or individually, for five minutes every morning and get an update on their current tasks. Doing this will create a healthy habit and will give them the opportunity each day to make you aware of any issues they are having. Also, because it is a routine meeting, it doesn’t feel like they are being micromanaged, which typically happens when you check in on them randomly several times throughout the day.
3. Hold post-task meetings.
When one of your reports finishes a task, sit with him or her and review the entire process. Did they complete it on time? Were there challenges? Did they feel you gave them all of the information they needed? How could you have done better? How could they have done better? These types of meetings can yield a wealth of information that can be used to improve your delegation and management practices. Also, why not ask, “Was I checking in on you too much, or not enough?”
Delegation is certainly an art, and one that is critical in the civil engineering world of large, complex projects. I hope these three steps can help you find that balance in delegating effectively as a civil engineering manager.
Anthony Fasano, P.E., M.ASCE, is the founder of the Engineering Management Institute (previously known as the Engineering Career Coach), which has helped thousands of engineers develop their business and leadership skills. He hosts the Civil Engineering Podcast and he is the author of a bestselling book for engineers, Engineer Your Own Success.
Anthony helps small to mid-sized civil engineering firms build powerful internal training programs that foster engagement and development. He has also recently started the Engineering Management Accelerator to help engineers become more effective managers: www.EngineerToManager.com.