Many entrepreneurs and managers don’t know how to delegate effectively, or aren’t willing to do it unless they absolutely necessary. They don’t realise that delegation is the major key to their own productivity.
If you’re a manager, team leader or an entrepreneur, you must know that delegation is the single biggest factor in managing your own workload and keeping yourself sane.
You no doubt have a heavy workload, and many pressures from every angle. The most precious commodity you have is time itself. No matter what, time keeps ticking, and you can’t do everything on your own.
So, if you are uncomfortable delegating, or feel that you can’t let go of responsibilities, I hope by the end of this article, that you can approach the topic differently, and delegate effectively.
What is delegation?
Effective delegation is the assignment of responsibility or authority to another employee, to carry out specific tasks or activities. Delegation, if properly done, helps motivate employees, saves money and time and trains others in specific skills.
To delegate effectively is not to micromanage, which is the exact opposite of effective delegation.
Micromanagement is where a manager provides too much direction, control and input of the delegated work. This is similar to hovering over someone’s shoulder, telling them how to complete every element of an activity.
Why great leaders delegate effectively
Look at any great leader in your industry or country, and I can assure you that they know the art of effectively delegating. I say effectively, because delegating tasks is a skill that is learned and improved upon, over time.
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If you are hesitant to delegate, maybe quoting sayings such as ‘If you want it done properly, you must do it yourself’, then best of luck with that crushing workload and never being able to work on bigger picture responsibilities.
If you’ve come to accept you must learn to delegate, and do it well, then here is a warning; it can sometimes feel like more hassle than it’s worth, even after years of practice; remind yourself regularly that if you delegate effectively, you are expanding the amount of responsibility and work that you can deliver.
Put it this way. If you arrange the work, so that you are working on tasks that have the highest priority for you, and other people are working on meaningful and challenging tasks themselves, then you have a greater chance of success.
Delegating isn’t always easy, and the process isn’t always clear cut. You may need to change your delegation process on occasion, and learn to constantly improve, but it is worth it! The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll develop the ability to delegate effectively.
Four steps to delegate effectively
There are four steps in effective delegation. Firstly, you need to choose the right tasks to delegate. Once you have done that, you need to identify the right people to delegate these to. Then you provide instructions and monitor progress, and finally, you review the results.
Let’s go through each of these steps in more detail…
What should you delegate?
There are many activities that you perform every week that are probably perfect to delegate, and others no doubt, less so. Some responsibilities you just can’t delegate; sensitive tasks that can’t be done by others, tasks that require your specific skills or your role as a manager itself.
When considering a task or activity to delegate, start by asking these questions;
- Is it absolutely critical that I do this task myself?
- Is there someone in my team with the right experience to complete this task?
- Is this a task something that will be regular in the future?
- Does this task provide an opportunity to develop another person’s skills?
If you have said to two or more of these questions, well done! That means that it is very likely that you can delegate this task to someone else.
Who should I delegate to?
Not all tasks or activities are the same. Some could be done by anyone, and others are specialised and need specific skills and knowledge. You need to find the right people for the right tasks. Matching the proper person to each task can be difficult to begin with.
There are a number of considerations; your employees’ skill level, their motivation, and frankly, their dependability. As we all know, not every employee is created equal. Having said that, try not to typecast your employees. By giving them new opportunities, you may encourage a fresh sense of motivation and responsibility.
After all, whilst you are trying to manage your own time, if you delegate effectively, you are encouraging your team to broaden their horizons and become more valuable to you.
As a leader, you are no doubt already aware of each individual’s strengths and weaknesses, and eagerness to learn new skills. You should also consider their current workload and will you delegating this work to them, mean they will need to reshuffle their own workload or responsibilities? Just as importantly, what is this persons longer term goals and career aspirations?
Provide instructions and monitor
Delegating a task isn’t as simple as stating ‘Sally, please do X, thanks’.
You have to accept that the first few times you delegate a task, that it will inevitably end up taking them longer than just doing it yourself (since you’ll need to train them, answer questions, and the like), so you should consider this delegation as an investment. By transferring your skills, you will be ultimately saving more time than you spent teaching.
When you are delegating something new to a team member, be very specific with what you need and your expectations. Explain to them how you will measure their performance and let the person know the level of accountability that comes with the task. Clarifying these things beforehand will make everything run much smoother, and reduce the risk of mistakes.
If you find yourself having to explain a task at great length verbally, it would be wise to write it all down, and then your team have something to refer to in the future. This way, they can refer to the document, rather than having to always come back to you for clarification.
If you have specific preferences for how the work needs to be carried out, make sure you include that information. If you have a strict deadline or milestones you need to hit, be very clear about them. Be careful, however, not to detail down to every action, how the work should be done. You should allow your employee to control his or her own methods and processes.
When you delegate something, make sure that your chosen employee knows that they can come to you with questions, and if they do, remember to be patient. Delegation is a great way to motivate your team, however bad delegation has a risk of damaging morale.
When tasks are done well, make an effort to give your employee the recognition they deserve. Whether it is public recognition or one-on-one, everyone enjoys being given credit for their work. Doing this not only makes your employee feel good, it motivates them to continue their hard work.
Review the results
When the work is finished, make sure that you set aside enough time for you to review it fully, and provide meaningful feedback back to the employee who did the work.
This feedback process is absolutely vital. When you get great results, get in the practice of complimenting them. This effort will go a long way toward building team member’s self-confidence and efficiency, both of which will be improved on the next delegated task.
As equally important, if your expectations are not met, you need to find out why this happened, give them constructive criticism, and ensure they understand your expectations for future tasks.
When done effectively, delegation is an incredibly powerful way for leaders and those in authority to claim back their time, and be more effective. More than that, it actually trains others in new skills, and motivates the team to new heights.
To delegate effectively, follow these four steps;
- Find the right tasks to delegate
- Identify the right people to do the work
- Provide clear instructions and monitor progress
- Review the results and give feedback.
If you follow these four steps, you are on your way to delegation success and getting more done as a leader. Good luck!