Delegation. A word that scares some managers and employees, but when done effectively can produce amazing results. Delegation doesn’t have to be a dirty word. Delegation is an easy skill to learn and can be quickly mastered and turned into a long term habit. Like many new skills, it’s often just getting started that is the challenge.
If you want to be a great leader, you must learn how to delegate. To be able to delegate well you must understand why it is important in the first place and the value it brings.
Change Your Mindset Around Delegation
At the simplest level delegation saves you time, it allows you to develop your people, and encourages creativity for your team. Though it can be hard to view it that way if you have the wrong mindset around delegation.
Delegation is NOT a dirty word! Delegation doesn’t mean you are lazy. Consider there is a chance that your way isn’t the only way and maybe someone on the team may have a new, great perspective. Don’t be afraid to let the work go and don’t be afraid to allow your team to fail and learn. And remember every time you choose to keep and work a task you are taking away someone else’s chance to develop.
Why You Should Delegate
There are a number of benefits to delegating from both an employee and manager perspective.
Employees benefit from delegation because they feel like you care! You’re engaging them, giving them a chance to develop, and trusting them to do a task you may have done on your own. Simply put it builds morale – and what a manager doesn’t want a team filled with high morale? Getting the team involved, giving them creative freedom and the autonomy to do their work will create happy and long-lasting employees. All of this leads to stronger employee retention. The more you delegate the happier your people are and the less hiring and training you will have to do in the long run.
Managers also benefit from delegation. The most obvious reason is the overall time and schedule improvements. The more work you can spread around the more time you buy back for yourself. This is important because as a manager you should be more focused on strategic work than operational and tactical work. It also frees up time for you to focus on developing yourself, which is equally important. Perhaps it allows you time to take a new class, read a book, or work with a leadership coach. Either way, delegation will buy back time on your schedule!
When you’re ready to start delegation, start with one small task at a time. Here are a few ideas to get you started, but remember don’t try to do them all at once.
Break down your tasks
Make a list of all the meetings you attend and tasks/projects you’re working on. Are there meetings others can attend in your place? What are the small tasks that build up over time? The time-consuming tasks that take away from other work? What tasks are good training/coaching opportunities? What tasks do your employees always ask about and want to work on? Make that list and see what you can start to move off your plate slowly.
Use your 1:1 time with your employees to discuss personal development.
Personal development discussions are the perfect opportunity to get clarity around what your people are interested in and what they actually want to do. This allows you to align the tasks you’d like to delegate to their personal areas of interest. This will ensure tasks will be completed efficiently and with some joy.
Include your team in meetings and new projects upfront.
If you know something new is coming, invite a few key people to attend the meetings with you. That way they hear the details directly, vs. you relaying it in yet another meeting later. Save your time and theirs. This process is also great for “self delegating” which I mention in the 6 min video below, watch that and learn about the value of self delegation.
Ask your team what they want to do!
There is no reason you can’t outright ask what tasks and projects they’d like to work on. As a manager, you’re not expected to know it all and make every decision in a vacuum. It’s actually quite the opposite. So ask your team what they would like to do and delegate base on interest.
Listen in to this 6-minute video exert where I talk a bit about delegation:
There aren’t too many don’ts when it comes to delegation, but these can be important to take note of to allow for your success.
Don’t peanut butter spread tasks across the team.
Tasks do not need to be equally given to all members of the team. They should be based more on who is a right fit and who may be interested. The task will be done much quicker if given to a person who is interested in growing in that area vs just the next person on the team that has capacity. Evenly spreading across the team will not create motivation or engagement, but giving a task based on who actually wants to do it will.
Don’t try to be fair.
Many managers try to make the tasks they equal even or fair across the team. They think that people will be more motivated to do the work if everyone is being given an equal amount of extra work. Just remember that if you are delegating properly and based off of interest your team will be much more motivated. Fairness will not drive engagement and increase morale, but they ability to give someone on the team something they would like to do will.
Don’t distribute tasks based only on who has capacity.
This is an easy trap to get stuck in. We quickly look around and see who has capacity and distribute tasks to those that seem free. But this can be very dangerous as it may add a lot of extra time to complete the task. The person with the most time to do it might also be the person that takes 2 times longer to complete it. If you’d like to give a project to Sally as she has the most capacity but you know the person that should work it is Bob. Give it to Bob but take something off his plate that Sally could focus on instead. That way you are not overloading Bob but spreading the work out more evenly by moving tasks around.
Don’t hold onto projects just because you’ve always done them, you’re the best and you like the work.
This is the area most managers get stuck. They delegate everything they can except for that one thing they like to do and want to keep doing. Take a hard look at your tasks. Is it perhaps time to start delegating something that you like doing? Is it time to give someone else a chance? Freeing up that task will give time to focus on other strategic work. Perhaps you will finally be able to sit down and work on a project you’ve had on your to-do list. Consider if it’s time to give up something you’ve never considered delegating to give yourself some much-needed time and space.
Delegation doesn’t have to be equal and fair. If you have a few top performers that want the work and want to develop it’s okay to delegate only to them. As long as you delegating based on the team’s development plans and area of interest then you’re doing it right. In the end be sure you are being realistic about your time, your goals, and what really needs to be delegated. Don’t just keep the work you have done for years, or love – if that is the work that makes sense to delegate, it’s time to do it.
Now you know why delegation is important, the benefits, and what to do and not to do. When it comes down to it here are the steps to effectively delegate to your team.
- Align the right person to the task
- Explain how the tasks connect to the vision/mission and why you’re delegating it
- Be clear about what is needed and the deliverables
- Help with training, resources and by removing roadblocks
- Give them the autonomy, responsibility, and authority to do the job
- Check-in, hold them accountable, and provide feedback along the way
- Be grateful, supportive and say thank you
Start small. Don’t be afraid to just try one thing at a time and find out what works for you. Talk to your team. Ask them deep questions and get clear about what they want. Provide a clear direction. When you do delegate, be sure it’s 100% clear what you need. Take the time to train. The time you put in now will save you hours later. Ask for feedback. Don’t be afraid to let your team tell you what is working and not, this will allow you to grow even more into your leadership potential. Lastly, create a strong sense of ownership for your team by being clear about what you are asking them to do. Explain how it connects to the vision/mission. Let them know how they are impacting the company overall and they will be more likely to succeed.
If you’d like a listen to the 60-minute leadership training I recently did on delegation you can access it here.
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