Picture a hardworking food truck owner, dishing up tasty treats to a steady stream of customers. The beauty of his business? Its simplicity and mobility, offering timely, personalized service. But what happens if he dreams bigger? What if he wants to open a restaurant, serve more customers? Can he continue doing everything on his own?
Highly unlikely! He’ll need a team—someone at the reception, waitstaff, kitchen staff—all working together for the restaurant to run smoothly.
The same applies when you’re trying to enlarge your efforts, make a larger dent in your industry. You soon realize the impossibility of doing it all single-handedly. That’s where delegation comes in.
Mastering delegation is the key to constructing an effective, harmonious team that can achieve more together. It helps you to focus your time and energy on tasks that truly need your touch, enhancing your team’s productivity in the process.
If the thought of delegation seems daunting, or you’re unsure about how to do it correctly, you’re in the right place. This guide is here to demystify the process and teach you how to delegate tasks effectively.
Table of Contents
- How to Delegate Tasks Effectively
- 1. Know When to Delegate
- 2. Identify the Best Person for the Job
- 3. Tell and Sell to Get the Member to Buy-In
- 4. Be Clear and Specific About the Work
- 5. Establish Preliminary Protocols
- 6. Implement a Progress-Reporting Mechanism
- 7. Make Consequences Clear
- 8. Take Feedback Seriously
- 9. Support Your Employees
- 10. Show Your Appreciation
- Bottom Line
How to Delegate Tasks Effectively
Knowing how to delegate work helps you understand how to connect people with tasks that make the best use of their talents. When done properly, it ensures that you will get the best end result.
So what’s the best way to delegate work so you can fight the fear of delegation, build an efficient team, and work faster? Here’s a step-by-step guide:
1. Know When to Delegate
By understanding how much control you need to maintain over a situation, you can determine the best strategy for empowering workers. There are 5 levels of delegation that offer workers different degrees of responsibility:
- Level 1: Maximum assistance provided by the leader. The subordinate requires significant facilitation to deliver quality output.
- Level 2: The leader provides guidance and support, but the subordinate has more responsibility.
- Level 3: Both the leader and the subordinate contribute equally. Effort is balanced between the two.
- Level 4: The subordinate has a significant level of independence and puts in more effort than the leader.
- Level 5: Maximum independence given to subordinates. The leader expects the subordinate to fulfill assigned tasks and submit them as needed.
The lowest level of delegation happens when you tell other people what to do. It offers little opportunity for employees to try new approaches. The most empowering form of delegation occurs when you are able to give up most of your control over the project to the employee.
When you’re thinking of task delegation, determine which level of delegation is appropriate. Ask the following questions:
- Do you have to be in charge of this task, or can someone else pull it off?
- Does this require your attention to be successful?
- Do you have time to teach / guide someone how to do this job?
- Do you expect tasks of this nature to recur in the future?
- Is there any team member available or skillful enough to take on a highler level of delegated tasks?
When you’re just getting into delegation, it is quite common to feel like you’re delegating too much work. Inexperienced managers usually feel like they are over-burdening their employees, giving away their own tasks, or asking subordinates to do what’s not their job.
While all these concerns are 100% valid and should always be avoided, they can keep you from delegating the work that has to be distributed among your team. This defeats the purpose of delegation even if you are well-aware of how to delegate tasks.
Tasks That You Should Always Delegate
Here are some tasks that you should always delegate. However, reason with yourself according to the environment of your workplace to make the final decision.
Every office has a fair share of a few projects that are recurring and repetitive.
Now, these jobs are either the same every time or even with a slight variation, they require a similar work process and skillset. For example, auditing, budgeting, event planning, etc.
Such tasks have to be done every day, weekly, fortnightly, or monthly. The problem here is that even if these jobs are quick and easy, a manager is wasting time doing them.
You should always delegate projects like these so that you can save up a lot of your precious time in the long run.
Simultaneously, you can train your subordinates to perfection for jobs like these. With regular practice, your subordinates can begin to work on level 5 of delegation, which is where the employees can work independently.
Whether or not you want to categorize annual projects in this category depends on how often the employees in your organization are promoted or replaced. If the same people will be around to do the job for 3 to 4 years at least, it is best to train them for it.
One of the most prominent features of delegation is that it helps save time. So, it is only right if you delegate the work that will take up too much of your time.
Instead of spending a week on one project, you should spend a few hours explaining the work to your subordinates and let them take charge.
This way, not only will you clear your own schedule, but it will also get the job done quicker. Since delegation is all about distributing work among a team, more people can work together on one project simultaneously. This will cut down a huge chunk of the work that goes into it.
What this means is that if there are tasks that are time-consuming but have a short deadline, you must always delegate them. It is an easy and fool-proof method to tick off big projects on your to-do list!
Work That Your Subordinates Are More Skilled In
Just because you’re leading a group of people does not mean you have all the skills that they don’t have.
There may be something that your subordinates are way better at. For instance, you might not be very tech-oriented, but someone in your team could be.
So, jobs that require skills that someone in your team is better at should always be delegated. Do not take it personally or make it a matter of ego.
Projects That Boost Basic Skills
While delegating work, you shouldn’t forget that as a leader or manager, you also must encourage skills in your subordinates.
Certain projects are too complicated for people that do not have the skills to do the job. However, some challenges are a healthy way to encourage your team to broaden their skillset.
If you don’t offer opportunities, your team will never grow. And that is a huge failure as a management leader.
Tasks That Your Subordinates Find Interesting
Keeping the employees interested in what they do is one difficult job that a manager must do.
To keep the motivation levels high, you should delegate more fun work. Things that your employees will enjoy doing, let them.
So, for example, if you’ve noticed that your team enjoys outdoor tasks, assign them jobs that require work to be done outside your office building. Other interesting tasks include field research, event planning, etc.
Tasks You Should Never Delegate
Generally, once a manager gets comfortable with delegating work, all the concerns that were previously there vanish.
While that is a good thing, some leaders may begin to ignore those issues completely.
They may over-delegate and assign tasks that aren’t in the job description of the subordinates. Sometimes, managers delegate every single task and they are left behind with so much free time.
To avoid this from happening, you should never delegate the tasks with the following nature. However, the final decision depends on the nature of the exact task and your workplace.
Tasks That Require Your Unique Skillset
Certain tasks may require a deep understanding and specialized knowledge that only you possess. If the task relies on your expertise or experience, it may not be suitable for delegation.
Such tasks are likely high-level tasks related to business directions and strategies, or team structure. By keeping these tasks within your control, you can ensure the highest quality and accuracy of the work.
Every organization has to plan for the worst-case scenario. Such decisions are of high importance. You cannot risk letting your team, which is generally less experienced than you, to make these choices.
You should plan and develop for the future of your organization yourself. The subordinates are just not in the position to do these jobs due to the lack of their exposure and level of responsibility.
Certain matters just cannot be put into the hand of the employees.
High priority and confidential jobs should never be delegated. These tasks are highly important so your expertise should come in handy. Moreover, assigning such jobs to the team can lead to a breach of privacy and other similar issues.
Decision-making tasks such as appraisals, employee hiring, and other similar things also fall in the same category.
2. Identify the Best Person for the Job
You have to pass the torch to the right team member for delegation to work. Your goal is to create a situation where you, your company, and the employee have a positive experience. Align the level of delegation with the team member’s capability when you delegate the task.
Think about team members’ skills, willingness to learn, and their working styles and interests. The person you delegated will be able to carry out the work more effectively if they’re capable, coachable, and interested. When possible, give an employee a chance to play to their strengths. Inexperienced workers may need more guidance than seasoned veterans. If you don’t have the time to set the newer employee up for success, it’s not fair to delegate to them.
You also have to consider how busy your employees are. The last thing you want to do is overwhelm someone by giving them too many responsibilities.
3. Tell and Sell to Get the Member to Buy-In
After you’ve found the perfect person for the job, you still have to get them to take on the new responsibility. Let them know why you chose them for the job. When you show others that you support their growth, it builds a culture of trust. Employees who see delegated tasks as opportunities are more likely to be invested in the outcome.
When working with newer employees, express your willingness to provide ongoing feedback and support. For seasoned employees, take their thoughts and experiences into account.
4. Be Clear and Specific About the Work
It’s critical to explain to employees why the project is necessary, what you expect of them, and when it’s due. If they know what you expect, they’ll be more likely to deliver.
By setting clear expectations, you help them plan how to carry out the task. Set up project milestones so that you can check progress without micromanaging. If your employee has trouble meeting a milestone, they still have time to course correct it before the final product is due.
This type of accountability is commonly used in universities. If students only know the due date and basic requirements for completing major research papers, they might put off the work until the eleventh hour. Many programs require students to meet with advisers weekly to get guidance, address structure, and work out kinks in their methods in advance of deadlines. These measures set students up to succeed while giving them the space to produce great work.
5. Establish Preliminary Protocols
Even with a well-defined scope of work, your team members might still feel uncertain about their initial steps, particularly if they’re venturing into a novel field or a different kind of project than usual. That’s where establishing a comprehensive “manual” or set of preliminary protocols can be crucial.
These guidelines can serve as a starting point for the new tasks, saving valuable communication time as team members can self-guide by reading through them. This approach also helps cut down the back-and-forth of constant questioning, thereby streamlining progress and improving project efficiency.
6. Implement a Progress-Reporting Mechanism
Micromanagement can seriously undermine team morale and trust. According to a survey by staffing firm Accountemps, it negatively affected the morale of over two-thirds of the participants.
To keep track of the project without resorting to micromanagement or necessitating your approval for every decision, consider implementing a progress-reporting mechanism. This system would require team members to periodically share their progress with you. The frequency could be weekly or monthly, depending on the magnitude of the task.
The key here is that team members bear the responsibility of reporting their progress to you. This strategy avoids the need for you to constantly monitor the project to ensure its smooth running, which would otherwise counteract the purpose of delegation.
7. Make Consequences Clear
What happens if the person you’ve delegated a task to drops the ball? Will you just shrug your shoulders and compensate them anyway?
If you do, you’re communicating that you don’t care about their contribution. Not only does that show disrespect to the person you’re working with, but it sets low expectations for future projects.
As with incentives, it’s important to align consequences with the nature of the problem. If you could have been more clear in your instructions, then don’t punish the other person. If you trusted your life savings to your business partner, and they spent it at a casino, then you may need to contact the authorities or sever ties altogether.
Most consequences will fall somewhere in between those poles. Give others the benefit of the doubt, and don’t be mean-spirited. One missed deadline at work deserves a stern warning, not a firing. Repeated deadline problems may warrant a cut in pay or responsibilities, however.
8. Take Feedback Seriously
Speaking of feedback, remember that it cuts two ways. In addition to giving your delegatee pointers when the project is complete, encourage them to suggest ways you could have done a better job.
Realize that power dynamics may discourage your teammate from giving you the whole story. To show them that it’s OK to speak up, you can say:
- “What could I have done better on that project?”
- “Did I set you up for success?”
- “How can I make your job easier next time?”
- “What’s the biggest mistake I made here?”
Asking for feedback, however, is only half the battle. If you want your teammates to give you the good, bad, and ugly with every project, you need to put their suggestions into practice. If you don’t, you’re telling them that you don’t value what they have to say.
9. Support Your Employees
To see the best possible outcomes of delegating, your subordinates need resources and support from you. Connect them with training and materials to develop skillsets they don’t already have.
It may take more time upfront to make resources available, but you’ll save time by having the work done correctly. For recurring tasks, this training pays off repeatedly.
What tools does your delegatee need to accomplish the task you’ve set out for them? If you don’t provide them with the things they need, then you can’t blame them for not coming through for you.
Resources can be varied. Think about:
Does the task you’re delegating require something to be purchased? If so, make sure you give your teammate the money they need to buy it.
Different people are good at different things. If the person to whom you’re delegating the task doesn’t possess every skill needed, do they have others they can lean on?
Realize that you, the person assigning them the task, also fall into this category. Will you be available for questions as they come up?
Sometimes employees need help to see what they’re doing well and how they can improve. Make it clear that you’re open to give them feedback, and encourage them to schedule brainstorming sessions with you if necessary.
10. Show Your Appreciation
What motivation does your delegatee have to do a good job, let alone get the job done at all? In some cases, your respect and appreciation may be enough. In other cases, you’ll need to give them some sort of remuneration.
Recognizing employees when they do well helps them understand the quality of work you expect. It makes them more likely to want to work with you again on future projects.
During periodic check-ins, recognize any wins you’ve seen on the project. Acknowledge that your employees are making progress toward the objective. The Progress Principle lays out how important it is to celebrate small wins to keep employees motivated. Workers will be more effective and dedicated if they know that you notice their efforts.
It’s important to align the task in question to the reward. You wouldn’t buy someone a new BMW because they did the dishes for you. By the same token, you can’t expect a developer to spend dozens of hours building your app for a measly $50.
When in doubt, ask. What sort of compensation does the person to whom you’re delegating the task expect? If you don’t agree with their answer, that’s OK. But you’ll have to reach some sort of middle ground if you want to maintain a good working relationship with this person.
How to Delegate Effectively
Now that you know the techniques to delegate work efficiently, you are in a great position to streamline your tasks and drive productivity in your team.
To delegate is to grant autonomy and authority to someone else, thus lightening your own workload and building a well-rounded, well-utilized team.
Delegation skills might seem complicated or scary, but it gets much easier with time. Start small by delegating a couple of decisions to members of your team over the next week or two.
How to Delegate as a Leader Successfully
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