Delegating effectively at work: Tips and advice for leaders
Too much work on your plate? By learning to delegate, we’ll show you how it can free up your time and empower your team…
If you do not have leadership experience or handing over the reins to those under you is something you struggle with, then delegation might be something you’re not used to. But by shying away from delegating tasks, you can miss out on a variety of benefits as a leader. Likewise, refusing to delegate can create some less-than-ideal disappointing situations between you and your team.
Getting stuck in and soldiering on through your tasks is all well and good, of course. But remember, there’s a difference between leading and doing. If you’ve noticed your workload increasing or your team has become more detached, then it’s probably a good idea to give delegating a go.
To get you started, we’ll show you how to begin delegating effectively with the help of these powerful, practical strategies below.
What is delegation?
When we talk about delegation, we’re referring to what Google defines as:
“entrust[ing] (a task or responsibility) to another person, typically one who is less senior than oneself”.
When you’re a leader, you’ll have a team of individuals you can assign specific tasks to. When a manager has less on their plate, they’re free to focus on other (sometimes more important) tasks. This also has the added benefit of engaging employees by giving them greater autonomy.
So, why might leaders struggle to delegate? Delegating has many different benefits, but there’s a good portion of leaders who are still wary of giving work to others. If the following reasons sound familiar, then it might be a sign you should start:
They think it takes longer to explain the task than it would to complete it themselves
They feel guilty about adding to team members’ to-do lists
They lack confidence or trust in their team’s abilities
They think they can do specific tasks better
They regard it as “just passing work off to someone else”
They see themselves as the expert and don’t want to let work go
Why is delegation important?
Delegation is important for many different reasons. For starters, no leader should try to complete everything themselves. Sure, it’s admirable, but it’s not exactly a smart way of working either.
When you delegate tasks, it empowers your team, instils trust, and grants them the opportunity to develop professionally. Plus, by ceding control to others, it lets you identify which team members are best suited to tackle certain tasks and projects.
By learning to delegate properly, you can also avoid many of the pitfalls of the micromanager too: obsessing over small details, being too hands-on, and stressing over others’ timekeeping, to name but a few.
As well as lightening your load, delegating also allows others to develop new skills and gain knowledge, preparing your team to take on greater responsibility in the future. The implicit trust and respect of delegating tasks has a hugely positive effect on your employees. When they know they’re respected, team members tend to be more committed to their duties and the company.
How to delegate tasks effectively
Want to get started with delegating tasks to others? Try these effective strategies before your workload starts to pile up.
Work out what you can delegate
There’ll be certain tasks that are better suited to delegation than others. Of course, you shouldn’t hand over things like performance reviews or anything regarding personnel to your team members.
With that said, there’ll be plenty of other duties you can easily delegate. The great thing about delegation is that you can use such instances as teachable moments. Consider whether assigning a task or project to someone would help them to learn something new which could help their career to grow.
Explain why you’re delegating
There’s more to delegating than reducing your own workload just to increase someone else’s. Handing off tasks to someone without context or explanation is unlikely to be met with enthusiasm.
Explaining your reasons for the hand-off, however, lets team members understand why they’re a good fit for the task, how it fits into the business’ objectives, and why the task is important.
A little explanation goes a long way to ensuring you’re both on the same page and creates meaning for the person you’re delegating the task to. Otherwise, it’s difficult to be enthusiastic about something that lacks context.
Choose the right person for the job
A strong leader knows what their employees are good at, the areas they’re weakest in, and the ways they prefer to complete tasks. Keeping these strengths, weaknesses and preferences in mind will help you decide what to delegate and to whom. If something involves a lot of teamwork and collaboration, then it’s probably not the best idea to hand it off to someone who prefers to work alone.
You could even let your team choose the tasks they’d like to take over from a list of delegated duties. This is another great way of fostering trust and engagement throughout the team.
Give them the right resources
Making sure your team have the right resources and training to carry out the tasks you’re delegating to them is important. If not, prepare for a frustrating outcome for all involved.
Without the right training, they won’t be able to complete the task to your desired level, and you may have to complete things yourself – defeating the point of delegating in the first place.
When training your team up on relevant apps and programs, try to avoid becoming the micromanager. Being too controlling during your training sessions can stifle learning and stop them from acquainting themselves with the skills needed to complete the tasks they’re being assigned.
Find the right level of engagement
Speaking of micro-managing, deciding how involved you need to be in your newly delegated tasks plays a big role too. If you’re constantly hovering around your team members, you can easily cause employees to detach from their duties. If, on the other hand, you opt not to involve yourself at all, the feedback certain employees require could go begging.
If you’re unsure, then ask your team the level of engagement they prefer from you. Everyone is different after all. What works for some might not be the ideal approach for others.
Be patient with your team
What may be a breeze for you might not be so easy for your team members – at least not at these crucial early stages. But remember, you’ve had years of experience familiarising yourself with the correct processes. Your team, in comparison, won’t be as well versed.
That’s why you should always be patient with them. It might be slow going at the start but try to resist the urge not to delegate certain tasks on the basis that you could complete them quicker. There’s bound to be a learning curve when getting to grips with new tasks, so be patient as your team familiarise themselves with such requests.
Like we said earlier, delegating tasks should be used as a teachable moment. Upon completion, let your team know how they got on.
If things weren’t completed to your standards, then give them constructive feedback they can learn from. When future tasks land on their to-do list, they’ll be able to use this feedback to complete them to a higher standard. Likewise, if they succeeded in completing a task, let them know they did a good job by offering them some positive feedback.
And don’t forget to ask your team for feedback of their own too. Perhaps you were unclear in your instructions, or your training lacked in certain areas. Either way, let them know you’re open to hearing about your own performance.
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