“When you delegate work to a member of the team, your job is to clearly frame success and describe the objectives.” – Steven Sinofsky, former Microsoft executive
Authors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Charles O’Reilly, in their book, Hidden Value: How Great Companies Achieve Extraordinary Results with Ordinary People, have claimed that there’s increasing evidence that delegation of responsibilities improves morale, productivity, and commitment.
Even though delegation of tasks sounds like an easy process and some leaders make it look easy, the fact is it requires a lot of trust, communication, and coordination, especially in the current scenario when leading a remote team is nothing short of a formidable challenge.
If you learn and improve on your skill of delegation, you and your team can do great things and make a big impact.
The problem is, for many leaders and managers, delegating effectively is something they don’t know how to do or aren’t inclined to do it unless they are under absolute compulsion to do so.
Why Is It Important To Delegate?
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a team leader, or hold a position of authority, delegation is going to play a vital role in maximizing your productivity and allowing you and your team to meet deadlines with amazing consistency.
Delegating is important because as a good, inspirational leader, you should not do everything yourself. Delegation of tasks also means you trust your team members.
Leaders can use delegation as a reliable way to assess competencies and skill levels of individuals to determine their suitability for tasks.
Obviously, delegating tasks can mean less workload for you, but it is more than getting stuff off your plate. The people who work for you will get an opportunity to learn and develop new skills, which prepares them for taking more responsibilities in the future.
However, delegation is not issuing directions and hoping that assignees will do them on time, successfully.
How Delegation And Allocation Are Different
I have come across many people who see delegation and allocation as the same thing, which is not right by any stretch of the imagination. There’s an important distinction that separates both.
Allocating a task refers to issuing instructions to a subordinate to carry out a specific action. You tell them what task to perform, and they follow your command – it’s that simple. On the other hand, delegating involves assigning some of your work to another person who is held accountable for his actions, decisions, and outcomes.
Why Do Leaders Fail To Delegate?
While there are plenty of benefits of delegation, not all managers or leaders are able to or interested in the delegation. Why? Some myths and misconceptions that can make them hesitate to delegate work to others. Here are some common reasons:
- They may think that delegation is no more than passing off work to someone else
- They want to take all the credit for the work done by themselves
- They’re skeptical about letting go
- They strongly feel they can do it better
- They are not fully confident that their team can handle an increased degree of responsibility
How to Delegate Tasks Effectively
If you are a manager or a leader, it’s your responsibility to trust your team, respect its discretion, and get the best out of every member. This is where efficient delegation of tasks comes into the picture.
Here are few valuable and proven tips to help team leaders and managers share their workload in a way that benefits everyone.
- Know When To Delegate
One common barrier to delegation is that leaders get confused regarding which tasks they should delegate and which ones they should not. There are tasks in every manager’s workload that should be delegated and others that should be done by you.
Jenny Blake, career and business strategist, recommends conducting an audit of tasks to discover which tasks should be delegated using the below-mentioned rules.
- Tiny tasks – Little things that don’t take much time to complete but can add up over time. Even an assistant could do these tasks, for example, booking flights for business trips.
- Tedious tasks – Mindless tasks that require little skills and can easily be delegated to subordinates.
- Time-consuming tasks – Are opportunities that can be broken down into smaller chunks and delegate some portion of your work to others.
- Teachable tasks – Tasks that you can easily teach someone else to perform, and does not require skills only you can provide.
- Terrible-at tasks – Tasks that you are not efficient at, and can be delegated to someone who’s more eligible to do the work proficiently, on time.
- Time-sensitive tasks – If you can’t handle all tasks belonging to a time-sensitive project by yourself, you can delegate chunks of that task to other members of your team.
- Identify The Best Person For The Job
As mentioned earlier, delegating the task is different than allocating the task. As a good leader, you should understand your employees’ strengths, weaknesses, working styles, and willingness to learn.
When possible, delegate tasks that are selected by the members themselves, as per their preferences. This will help to build trust and inspire team engagement. Similarly, if some employees show a willingness to be coached to upgrade their skills, you can delegate tasks to allow them an opportunity to prove their mettle.
You should also consider how ‘busy’ each of your team members are. You certainly don’t want to overwhelm them with additional tasks when they already have their hands full.
- Communicate Why You’re Delegating
When delegating tasks, some of your employees might see them as ‘unprecedented’. This is where communicating your thoughts and ideas behind actions will prove vital to bridge the gap between both sides. It really helps when you make someone understand why you’re giving him/them that responsibility.
Let them clearly know why you’ve chosen them for the job. When you show your intentions to others that you support their professional development, it promotes a culture of trust. Help them see each delegated task as an opportunity to learn more skills and take on more responsibilities.
- Use Technology To Your Advantage
It’s easy to lose track of assigned tasks and keep a check on the project progress, but using a top-rated project management software like ProofHub, Asana, or Basecamp can help team leaders, members, and even clients stay on the same page for better collaboration.
These project management software have features that help managers keep track of task progress, track time spent on work, assign tasks and subtasks to the team, and also makes team collaboration easier. All these features can eventually prove to be a lifesaver, when you talk about delegating tasks efficiently to your team members.
- Be Clear And Specific About The Expectations
When delegating tasks, it’s important to let assignees know in clear terms what your expectations are from them in terms of quality and/or quantity of work to be done. By setting clear expectations, you give them a clear sense of purpose and direction so they can plan how to carry out tasks.
For example, you can set due dates in a calendar, time estimates, track time manually or using timers, set up project milestones so that you can check progress without micromanaging. If your employees are having issues in moving along at expected speed, they can still do course correction before the final product is due.
Successful delegators tell their team members about areas where they can enjoy autonomy and where they don’t.
- Delegate Autonomy, But Keep Track Of Progress
Once you delegate tasks and empower your team members with decision-making, it’s time to step back and let them execute tasks assigned on their terms. This will allow people to do the work in a way they deem best. They will not feel frustrated because you have given them a certain degree of independence.
However, don’t hesitate to check in once in a while to verify if the project is moving along as planned. For example, if a task assigned a week ago is due tomorrow then you can send an instant message or email to the person in charge to check if he hasn’t hit any snags. In other words, trust your employees to be in line with set goals, but do keep an eye on workflow.
- Provide Honest Feedback
Feedback is probably the most crucial part of the delegation process. Leaders should be honest in providing accurate feedback; appreciate wholeheartedly on a job well done by publicly showering praise, and use constructive criticism to point shortcomings.
Invite and encourage your workers to come up with their thoughts on delegation – whether you’re assigning the right tasks to the right people, or if you’re providing adequate resources and information to the team.
Delegation isn’t always easy as the walk in the park, and the process isn’t always clear-cut, it’s a skill that leaders must master sooner than later to maximize their resources. Now that you know about powerful strategies to delegate efficiently, you can build trust and commitment with your employees, increase productivity, and make sure the best people are being assigned the tasks that best suit their capabilities.