Delegation is a critical leadership and management skill. But for many, it’s challenging to put into practice.
Here are common reasons why people avoid delegating work:
- It will take longer to explain the task than actually complete it themselves.
- They are “knowledge hoarders” – they like feeling indispensable or feel like they are the only ones who can do the job correctly.
- Laziness – they don’t want to put in the effort or planning.
- They feel guilty about reassigning the work to someone else.
- Lack of trust in the delegatee or not having the right resources to delegate to.
Most of these reasons are unfounded or are easily overcome with a bit of effort. In fact, not delegating effectively can have negative consequences – stagnation in your career, burnout, and your colleagues missing out on valuable learning and growth opportunities. It’s a skill that requires constant honing.
Why is delegating important?
Delegation allows you to focus on high-value tasks that best utilize your skills. This enables colleagues, employees, and freelancers to develop their own skills sets, stay more engaged, have more autonomy and boost overall productivity for themselves and the company.
Here are some tips on how to delegate more effectively:
- Plan ahead. First, you need to determine what makes sense to delegate. What are your strengths? Where do you provide the most value? Start with tasks that are easy to delegate. Then as you get more comfortable with delegation, you can start delegating more complex tasks that require more coaching.
- Determine who to delegate to. What resources do you have available to you? What are their skills sets? What’s their bandwidth? Is it a freelancer, a coworker, or perhaps a third-party company? If you don’t have the right resources, talk to your manager about sourcing more talent. Pro-tip – Avoid making assumptions. Talk to employees, coworkers, and freelancers to see if they are open to taking on more responsibilities.
- Prepare for success. Provide the necessary details, time, and expectations. Delegating effectively requires preparation but ultimately saves a lot of time in the end. Make sure you supply this person with the necessary details and timeline and clearly outline your expectations for this project. The expectations portion is something people often miss but can clarify the goals for a project.
- Don’t expect perfection. Even if a completed task is only 75% as good as you could do it, it’s often better than you taking it on completely. As you work with individuals and provide them with effective feedback, they will improve over time, and that 75% will get closer to 100%.
- Create a system / Batch delegate the work. Whether it’s the same type of project (like a blog writing or white paper design) or many projects with the same client, you get that individual familiar with a system or client personality. This makes it easier to delegate over time and produces a better outcome.
Delegation is a process and requires regular feedback. The more effective you deliver feedback, the more empowered the delegatee will become and the better results and outcomes you’ll experience.
Here are a few tips on delivering effective feedback:
- Be honest and direct, but mindful. Do not beat around the bush when delivering feedback. The clearer and more straightforward you are, the quicker you’ll see improvements. However, be mindful that this person put effort into something, so don’t be insulting; express what you appreciated about their performance.
- Address what went well and what needs work. Performance is rarely all good or all bad. Make sure when delivering feedback you are clear about what went well and then outline the areas that need work. Thank them for their effort.
- Clarify and reinforce your expectations. Managing expectations keeps the individual focused on the critical priorities. Discuss what success looks like for the project and your expectations for their role in it.
- Make sure they know you want them to succeed. If the delegatee feels like they have your back, they will perform better. It’s also a good idea to find out if there is something you could do to help them reach the goals of the project.
- Establish a regular, clear communication channel. Everyone learns differently. Some people may be good with email or Slack, while others may do better with a call or Zoom session. Make sure they have an opportunity to ask for clarifications and make sure you check in regularly to see how things are progressing.
Finally, honing your delegation skills is a process, so be patient with yourself and the delegatee. Over time, you’ll feel more empowered, productive, and confident in your ability to delegate and you’ll be on your way to creating a high-performing team.