The University Record, November 23, 1998

HRD workshops focus on delegation, supervision skills

By Rebecca A. Doyle

Buried in paperwork? Frustrated by a work setting where some people wander around with nothing to do while you haven’t seen your desktop in three weeks?

Learning how to pass some of the workload on to co-workers, student staff members—even bosses—was the subject of “Delegating for Results,” a morning-long workshop available through Human Resource Development (HRD).

Wondering how they could lighten their own workload or make use of resources—human and other—in the office setting, 15 staff members gathered in one of HRD’s new meeting rooms and listened to presenter Barbara Mulay talk about how to set rules and constraints, when to expect progress reports, how to solicit input from others, and how to determine the level of support to give.

Letting go of part of a project is hard for many staff, participants noted. Being responsible for an entire project has traditionally meant that they should do the work themselves, and deciding what and how much of a task to delegate made many staff members feel uncomfortable.

“Control, or loss of it, can be hard to deal with,” noted Lisa Schneider, program coordinator in University Hospitals’ Health Promotion Division. According to Mulay, HRD staff development associate, that is consistently one of the things new supervisors have difficulty with.

“I learned that the skills needed to be an effective delegator can be acquired and that I’m not the only person who feels uncomfortable in that role,” said Susan Fielder, an administrative assistant in the Office of Government Relations.

To begin feeling confident in delegating tasks to others, people need to have some amount of trust that the tasks will be accomplished and recognize that others may accomplish them in a different way.

Mulay used the “trust walk”—an exercise in which one participant is blindfolded and led by another past obstacles in the room to reach the other side—to demonstrate building trust and how it feels both to lead and to be led. Trust builds, Mulay said, as the walk progresses.

Though the course has been offered to managers, this was the first time a session had been offered to staff members, who increasingly are responsible for project completion and sharing a workload with others, as well as delegating some of that work. Many have little experience or training in delegation skills.

“I thought it may be best for me to get some additional insights in personnel training, so that I may do a better job with supervision and delegation,” Schneider said. “I learned ways to delegate, how to follow up and what to do if there are performance problems.”

“I learned that the skills needed to be an effective delegator can be acquired,” Fielder said. Both noted that they would feel more confident about delegating some of the work in the future.

HRD’s course list this year reflects responses from staff about the relevance of training offered to their own work settings, and the need for increased delegation, leadership, interviewing, strategic planning, project management and change management skills. New courses addressing these needs opened this year, such as “Elements of Strategic Planning,” “Navigating Through Change” and “Keeping Your Sanity When Your Multiple Roles Roll Over You.”

Many of the courses are nearing capacity, but another round will be available beginning in January. For information on time, place and date, visit the HRD Web site at


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