It is vital that lawyers learn to delegate if they are to cope with their workloads and reduce stress. LawCare provides some pointers on how to do it successfully.
Sheer volume of work is one of the major causes of office stress. Being overloaded with work means that there is a temptation to stay later in the office, to rush matters and to neglect to take much-needed breaks and holidays. Saying a firm “No” to additional work is sometimes essential.
Delegation, where possible and appropriate, can make all the difference. Proper delegation to a trainee, colleague, paralegal or secretary gives them a chance to develop new skills and demonstrates your faith in their abilities, whilst reducing your burden. Remember too that it is possible to delegate upwards. If you find yourself charged with a task which you feel you are not fully qualified to deal with, then it is prudent to ask a more senior colleague to take it on.
Delegation is a skill to be learned, like any other, and can be divided into six key areas:
Make an active decision to give tasks to your colleagues, and think about which jobs you can pass along.
Don’t give all your tasks to one person. Recognise the strengths of various people and assign matters accordingly.
Discuss with your colleague what you are planning to delegate and why, and give them a chance to comment.
You may well have to provide training or help; be prepared to do so, even if it seems that it may be quicker to do it yourself. Remember that next time that person will know how to assist without training.
Dismiss your ownership of the task and accept that whilst someone else may not do it your way, it does not matter as long as it is done to the utmost of his or her ability.
You will also need to dismiss the nagging thoughts that dissuade you from delegating:
- "If you want it done right, do it yourself": This is not necessarily true, and you are unlikely to do a good job if you are stressed by overwork.
- "I’m not organised enough to delegate": It doesn’t take much organisation. Take a little time to identify tasks that can easily done by someone else and then diarise a date to check on their progress later.
- "My colleagues aren’t capable": Have more faith in your colleagues; they are professionals just as you are. You may need to give them a little extra training in some cases, but this will be worth the time spent and will be an opportunity for growth for them.
- "My colleagues are too busy": Don’t assume this to be the case until they tell you it is. Discussing the task with a colleague first gives them the opportunity to say no if necessary.
- "They won’t do it my way": Their way may be just as effective, and you may even learn something.
You can do it! It will be worth it!
LawCare’s hotline is 0800 279 6888. It is open 9 am to 7.30 pm on weekdays, and 10 am to 4 pm at weekends and on bank holidays. For more information, go towww.lawcare.org.uk.