Delegation is a vital skill for all managers, whether they’re team managers or top level CEO’s. People often have the instinct to do everything themselves. This can be due to fear over the standard of work others may produce, worry over seeming replaceable or even a sense of guilt for handing work off to others.
In fact, one study shows that close to half of the companies they surveyed were concerned about their employees’ delegation skills. But, only 28% of those companies actually offered any training on the topic.
However, with effective delegation practices in place, companies become more effective, more flexible and more productive. If you want to start delegating more effectively or teach your team how to do so, then these five simple rules are for you.
1. Assign tasks appropriately
The right task
The first rule of delegation is all about assigning the right tasks to the right people.
To begin with, let’s look at selecting the right type of tasks to delegate. Before you even start to think about whether or not to delegate, though, first consider whether the task should be delegated or eliminated. If it’s unnecessary, then simply eliminate it to improve efficiency. If you’ve decided that it is necessary, then ask yourself the following questions when deciding if it needs to be delegated:
- Is it a routine/time-consuming task? Free up time to use on planning and generating results instead.
- Is it a task somebody else could do better? Capitalise on your team’s strengths to produce the best results.
- Is it a task good for skill development? Delegate these to people who’d benefit from additional development.
However, avoid the mistakes of delegating tasks just because you find them boring. If these tasks require your attention as a team manager, then you shouldn’t pass them along to somebody else. The same thing goes for tasks that involve confidential information or those that require managerial input, e.g. making strategy decisions.
Another point to keep in mind is that you should avoid delegating tasks that have already been delegated to you personally. In this scenario, somebody has decided that you are the best person for the job, and there may be a specific reason they’ve selected you.
The right person
Let’s move on to the person who you’re going to select. There are a number of factors to consider when choosing the ideal person to delegate a task to, including their:
- Skills and talents
- Training level
- Strengths and weaknesses
As a leader, it is down to you to make these decisions depending on the outcome you want to achieve. If you’re looking for the highest quality of work, delegate to the person most able to complete the task. If you’re looking to develop your team’s abilities, delegate to individuals who would benefit from completing the task.
2. Be clear
The second lesson is about how you delegate. It’s important to remember that people can only complete the task well if they fully understand what is expected from them. For this reason, you have to make sure you cover the following when discussing a task that needs completing:
- Task deadline
- Final objectives/desired results
- Quality of work required
- Accountability and responsibility
- Development opportunities
By giving team members the information that they need to complete the task effectively, you ensure fewer issues down the line. Forgetting to cover one or more areas can result in confusion and slow down progress.
3. Don’t micromanage
A big misconception that exists around delegation is that you can tell people exactly how to do things. Unfortunately, this is neither productive nor effective.
First of all, you’re likely to cause frustration with your team member. By telling them how to do every part of the job, you’re taking away their freedom and forcing your own working style upon them, rather than letting them get on with it themselves. What’s more, you’re actually not saving any of your own time if you start to micromanage delegated tasks. You basically end up doing hte task yourself, but through another team member.
The key here is to focus on delegation of the what, not the how. Once you’ve made it clear what results you’re expecting, step back. Trust in your team’s abilities. Whilst they’re busy with their task, you can use your time on other productive tasks.
4. Don’t overdo it
At the start of this article, we spoke about how people find delegation to go against their instincts at times. But, the other side of this coin is those who over-delegate.
What you have to keep in mind is that delegation is not a tool for getting rid of tasks that you find boring, that you don’t enjoy or that you just don’t want to do. If you start delegating everything to other people, you’ll create tension and negativity in your workspace.
Instead, only delegate the right tasks, as we discussed in point 1. Otherwise, you’re likely to lose touch with what your job actually requires and demands. And remember, delegating a task doesn’t mean that you can just sit back, put your feet up and relax. That task is still under your responsibility. Instead of having to complete the task personally, your role changes to one of coaching, training and managing your team member whilst they take on the job for you.
5. Provide feedback
Don’t assume that the completion of a task means that that’s the end of it. The way to properly complete the delegation process is with feedback. Giving honest feedback helps your team member to understand what they did well and what they could’ve done better. It’s a vital part of continuous skill development and improvement.
Not only will you help team members to better understand their strengths and weaknesses, but you’ll also motivate them to be more productive, too. In fact, 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were being better recognised. As such, don’t underestimate the value of giving both praise and constructive feedback to your team members.
And most importantly, once you’ve given your team member their review, be sure to thank them for their help! At the end of the day, they’ve spent time and effort ensuring that something you needed was done and done well. Don’t take the approach that they’re just doing their job. The best leaders will show their appreciation for their team’s hard work. A little gratitude can go a long way in terms of employee happiness and motivation.
Do you have any delegation success (or horror!) stories? Share them with us in the comments section below.