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How to delegate effectively

Delegation means not only an investment in your people but a commitment to spending time in making sure it's done correctly. Delegation isn't easy but it is one of those skills that can be learned - you don't need to be an instinctive delegator. 

The business benefits of delegating well include:

  • Increased productivity
  • Effective workload management
  • Developing a breadth of skills within your team
  • Identifying top performers and developing potential

If you find this blog of interest and you and your business would benefit from coaching in the art of delegation, then get in touch - it could mean a more productive and profitable business going forward.

Delegation is a great way to free up time - how often do we leave the office at the end of the day and wonder where the hours were eaten up? The To-Do list is virtually the same as it was when you had your first work break - more's been added to the list; let alone a thought that the entire list could have been completed.

So we know that delegation means that we can allocate tasks and projects to our teams, new employees and external contractors. 

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling while they do it.”– Theodore Roosevelt, 26th U.S. President.

So where do we start? How difficult is it to delegate - and to do it well?

Adapt how you delegate depending on who you're delegating to

We talk about the 'art of delegation' because not everyone does it the same way. Depending on who's been assigned to the task will mean that different approaches will need to be applied. The approach will need to be pitched at the right level to make delegation effective. Not only that, but  delegating work effectively requires an investment of your effort and time. 

A common response to delegation is the 'It's faster to do it myself' mentality or that 'letting go' means you're no longer up to the job and thus delegation should be avoided completely. 

There's also the fear that either the task will come back to you eventually or it won't be delivered to your exacting standards.

But ultimately, these are short-sighted views and won't help in terms of productivity in the long run. You're missing out on an opportunity to develop new and better methods since those you decide to delegate to, may introduce different approaches, systems or processes. You're also missing an opportunity to encourage engagement within your teams, as well as nurturing personal development.

What's the difference between delegation and abdication?

Delegating a task doesn't mean you are absolved from being responsible for it. 

Let's just take time out to differentiate between delegating a task and abdicating from it.

Abdication - key indicators

An abdicator will:

  • Issue a task to anyone and then forget about it. This, understandably, will cause mistrust and a lack of respect.
  • Give unclear or insufficient information. This approach, giving ‘free rein’ will typically cause poor ongoing communication and create a culture where assumptions rather than facts are applied to delivery of the task. 
  • Assume the team member has grasped the requirements of the task, including all the expectations for delivery. Potentially catastrophic - leading to delays in delivery, possibly re-doing the work and ultimately low productivity.
  • Neglect to confirm timeframes, leading to delays and budget overspend.
  • Neglect to review outcomes, leading to resentment and a repeat of mistakes.

Delegation - key indicators

A delegator will:

  • Assess the task, assign the person with the right skills and support them. This will create trust and respect.
  • Communicate clearly, specifically, and use appropriate language for the individual assigned the task. This will build a stronger connection.
  • Ask the team member to repeat back instructions to ensure they have grasped the requirements, methods and means to ensure they have understood all aspects of the task. This will avoid potential delays and increase productivity.
  • Set a clear timeframe. A delegator will also request notification when the task is complete. This obviously gives the best chance for the task to be competed on time and to budget.
  • Review outcomes with the team member. What worked well and what can be improved upon guarantees any errors are not repeated and gives the opportunity to provide positive feedback.

Next steps to delegation

Take time to ask yourself questions.

  1. Which tasks could I delegate?
  2. Who can I delegate them to? 
  3. Will tasks be part of an individual's career development?
  4. Are there any training needs?
  5. What's expected of each task and what is the best process? 
  6. Do I have the right systems in place - should any be created?
  7. What needs to be implemented to facilitate performance/task measures - weekly check-ins or review meetings?

Apply principles of delegation

If you're worried about how to deploy delegation, start with smaller tasks, where the risks are lower and work up. This approach will enable you to fine-tune how you delegate and notably reduce your stress in letting go of a particular task or role.

Pick the right person for the job

This sounds obvious but assess who in your team has sufficient capacity to take on a new project.

Who has the right skillset? The right attitude? Evaluate your team; who can do the task with the minimum of supervision once the expectations of the task have been fully communicated.

Set task expectations

What is required to deliver the task on time and on budget? Confirm deadlines and build in check points at key stages to ensure the task is on track. Ensure a larger task has more check-ins and ensure to touch base at regular intervals. The right balance has to  be struck - avoid micro-managing at all costs. By all means keep an eye on progress but constant checking will create a sense of mistrust and the relationship between you and the delegatee will become strained.

Trust your team

Trusting your team to deliver the project to its expectations will enable your employees to develop skills and nurture their personal development. Ensure you're accessible to remove any blockers or serve as a point of escalation for any issues. Agree the method for receiving status reports to avoid any feelings of mistrust.

Review the task at completion

As delegator, you're ultimately accountable to ensure the task is fulfilled and successful. Review the task at the final check-in. This will give you the opportunity to give recognition for a job done well and offer constructive feedback to learn from any issues which cropped up.

“The really expert riders of horses let the horse know immediately who is in control, but then guide the horse with loose reins and seldom use the spurs.”

Sandra Day O’Connor, former Supreme Court Justice.

Delegation is a skill you can learn. Most importantly, it demonstrates you want to invest in your teams, your people and are encouraging their personal development.

Do you need business advice, looking to implement a change in strategic direction? Are you looking to streamline your business? Improve your productivity? 

If you're struggling to see the wood for the trees and require a little help to identify which tasks can be delegated in order to focus on more prominent issues, then talk to us.


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