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3 Tips for Delegating Without Micromanaging

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on September 17, 2015 1:17 PM

You can't do it all yourself. At some point, you've got to hand work off to someone else. Great! Proper delegation is an integral part of running an effective firm. After all, your associates, interns, and paralegals need something to do. And delegation can help save your clients money by passing work off to those with lower billing rates.

But delegating is useless when you don't really relinquish some control. Excessive micromanaging -- checking in constantly, making needless corrections, demanding that everything is done exactly as you would do it all the time -- wastes both your time and your staff's. Here are three tips to help avoid it.

Be Aware of Risk and Complexity

One of the main reasons people micromanage is because they feel responsible for the final product. If your assistant forgets to make a routine filing, the client holds you responsible. But not every task requires detailed oversight.

One of the keys to effective delegation is to take into account a task's risk and complexity. High risk, high complexity tasks require more oversight. Low risk, low complexity matters can be handed off with little need to micromanage. You can also reduce the risk associated with a delegated task by making sure it's done early, allowing you to review and correct without needing to micromanage throughout the process.

Monitoring Instead of Micromanaging

Asking a colleague where they are on that brief every few hours is micromanaging. Having a system to check in regularly is not. Establishing a procedure for getting regular updates can help you stay on top of tasks without needing to micromanage them. For complex tasks, set up meetings to listen to how your team is progressing, address any developing problems and provide feedback.

Develop a Plan

Good planning can help you avoid the need to micromanage. When looking at a project, ask yourself where you can get the best performance from your team. Do you have a smart, new attorney who was brilliant in law school but wouldn't know a local rule if it hit him in the face? Divide tasks accordingly. Consider as well your timeline. Who will need to do what, when? Schedule in an appropriate buffer to allow you to review other's work. That way you don't have to hover over them throughout the process.

Remember, if a task isn't done exactly as you would do it, that doesn't mean it wasn't done right. Having faith in your team is essential for strong management.

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