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Published on March 20, 2018

How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

All managers and leaders must master the art of delegation. Understanding how and when to allocate responsibility to others is essential in maintaining a high level of productivity, both on a personal and organizational level. Knowing how to delegate is also essential for an effective leadership.

To learn how to delegate is to build a cohesive and effective team who can meet deadlines. Moreover, knowing when and how to delegate work will reduce your workload, thus improving your wellbeing at work and boosting your job satisfaction. Unfortunately, many leaders are unsure how to delegate properly or are hesitant to do so.

In this guide, you will discover what delegation really entails, how it benefits your team, and how to delegate tasks successfully.

The importance of delegation

An effective leader knows how to delegate. When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more on a daily basis. Effective delegation also promotes productivity within a team by drawing on the existing skill set of its members and allowing them to develop new knowledge and competencies along the way. The result is a more flexible team that can share roles when the need arises.[1]

When you are willing to delegate, you are promoting an atmosphere of confidence and trust. Your actions send a clear signal: as a leader, you trust your subordinates to achieve desired outcomes. As a result, they will come to think of you as a likeable and efficient leader who respects their skills and needs.

Delegation isn’t about barking orders and hoping that your staff falls in line. A manager’s job is to get the very best from those under their supervision and in doing so, maximizing productivity and profit.[2]

Here’s an example of bad delegation:

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    Careful delegation helps to identify and capitalize on the unique strengths and weaknesses of the team members. Delegation also boosts employees’ engagement as it proves that the managers are interested in drawing on their talents.[3]

    The fear to delegate

    Delegation boosts productivity, but not all managers are willing or able to delegate.[4] Why? Here’re some common reasons:[5]

    • They may resent the idea that someone else may get the credit for a project.
    • They may be willing to delegate in principle but are afraid their team won’t be able to handle an increased degree of responsibility.
    • They may suspect that their staff is already overworked, and feel reluctant to increase their burden.
    • They may suspect that it’s simpler and quicker just to do a task themselves.
    • They dislike the idea of letting go of tasks they enjoy doing.
    • They fear that if they delegate responsibility, their own manager will conclude that they can’t handle their workload.

    Delegation vs Allocation

    Most people think that delegation and allocation are synonymous, but there is an important distinction to be made between the two.[6]

    When you allocate a task, you are merely instructing a subordinate to carry out a specific action. You tell them what to do, and they do it–it’s that simple. On the other hand, delegation involves transferring some of your own work to another person. They do not just receive a set of instructions. Rather, they are placed in a role that requires that they make decisions and are held accountable for outcomes.[7]

    So what’s the best way to delegate work so you can fight the fear of delegation, build an efficient team and work faster?

    How to delegate work effectively (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 7 levels of delegation that offer workers different degrees of responsibility.

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    This brief video explains these levels and offers examples of when it’s appropriate to use each one:

    Delegation occurs along a spectrum. 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.

    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.[8]

    When you’re deciding how to delegate work, 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?
    • Will this work help an employee develop their skills?
    • Do you have time to teach someone how to do this job?
    • Do you expect tasks of this nature to recur in the future?

    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 in which you, your company, and the employee have a positive experience.

    Think about team members’ skills, willingness to learn, and their working styles and interests. They’ll 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.

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    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 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. [9] 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 you’re working with newer employees, express your willingness to provide ongoing support and feedback. 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.[10] 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 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.

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    5. 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.[11] It may take more time up front to make resources available, but you’ll save time by having the work done correctly. For recurring tasks, this training pays off repeatedly.

    Sometimes employees need a help to see what they’re doing well and how they can improve. Giving and receiving feedback is an essential part of delegation. This is also a good way to monitor the delegated tasks as a leader. While you can keep track of the progress of the tasks, you are not micro-managing the employees.

    Throughout the project, periodically ask your employees if they need support or clarification. Make it clear that you trust them to do the work, and you want to create a space for them to ask questions and offer feedback. This feedback will help you refine the way you delegate work.

    6. Show your appreciation

    During periodic check-ins, recognize any wins that you’ve seen on the project so far. 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.[12] Workers will be more effective and dedicated if they know that you notice their efforts.

    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.

    Putting delegation into practice

    Now that you know exactly what delegation means and 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 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.

    Featured photo credit: Freepik via freepik.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    Last Updated on August 7, 2018

    14 Powerful Leadership Traits That All Great Leaders Have

    14 Powerful Leadership Traits That All Great Leaders Have

    Being a leader of a company or organization is certainly a difficult and often frustrating position – but it can also be tremendously rewarding.

    Whether you’re just starting out as a leader, or have been leading for a while, you’ll be sure to benefit from knowing the essential traits that all great leaders possess.

    Effective and successful leaders transcend the title of ‘manager’ or ‘boss’. They’ve found a way to achieve the perfect combination of charisma, enthusiasm and self-assurance (with a healthy dose of luck and timing probably added to the mix).

    It may seem like some people are gifted with leadership skills, but the truth is most leadership traits can be learned, adopted, and strengthened with time and practice.

    As we delve into the list of effective leadership traits, you will learn the behaviors and attitudes of a good leader.

    The 14 most important leadership traits

    Please read through the list of leadership qualities carefully. Take note of which of the traits you excel at – and which ones you need to work at.

    Traits for better self-development

    1. Vision and mission

    Having a clear picture of what needs to be achieved is a crucial quality of good leadership.

    This vision is often communicated in a mission statement, such as this one from Starbucks:

      How to develop vision? Spend time pinpointing what you need to achieve, and then plan the steps to get there. Here’s a complete guide on creating your own vision.

      2. Self-motivated

      It’s no coincidence that successful leaders have an abundance of self-motivation.

      Without a decent level of self-motivation, you’ll struggle to become a strong and respected leader. However, if you don’t have a lot of self-motivation right now, don’t despair.

      One of the secrets is to have definite goals to keep you motivated at all times. Some people also choose to reward themselves every time they achieve a goal, and this is certainly a good way to keep yourself enthused and motivated. Learn how to set an ambitious yet achievable goal here.

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      3. Optimism and positivity

      Positive energy is contagious. Great leaders are overflowing with this type of energy.

      Not only does a positive mindset make leaders easy to work with, but it also gives them a constant source of inspiration and ideas.

      Tap into this energy by aligning yourself with positive people and positive goals. Find out more about the habits of positive people here.

      4. Emotional stability

      In leadership positions, frustration and stress are daily occurrences. This is why leaders need to have strong and stable emotions. They can’t allow themselves to be easily knocked off track.

      If you’re prone to losing your emotional stability when stressed or frustrated, try some of these techniques: breath deeply and slowly for 30 seconds, go for a walk, drink some water (instead of tea or coffee), turn your focus onto something you can resolve. Here’re some effective ways to control your emotions.

      5. Self-confidence

      Watch a presentation by any CEO and you’ll see that even if they’re not natural presenters – they make up for this by having powerful self-confidence.

      It’s not just CEOs who have self-confidence, any successful leader will have this trait in abundance. One reason for this, is that only a confident person can persuade others and gain their respect.

      Worried that you have low self-confidence? Try faking it. Psychologists often recommend that if you ‘act’ at being confident, you’ll start to look, sound and feel like you ARE confident. And in time… you will be.

      If you look for more ways to boost your self-confidence, this confidence coach has got you some nice advice:

      How to Be Confident: 62 Proven Ways to Build Self-Confidence

      6. Decisiveness

      Leaders are frequently called upon to make decisions (some leaders may have to make dozens of decisions every day). In fact, you could say that making decisions is one of the key things a leader must do.

      Spend some time observing highly-successful leaders and you’ll see that they are quick to make decisions. They also enjoy making decisions, rather than stressing out like many non-leaders do when they’re asked to decide on something.

      Put yourself in the leadership bracket by developing your decision-making skills. Start with small decisions – and then work your way up to bigger and more difficult decisions. Once other people notice your decision-making prowess, they’ll automatically see you as leadership material.

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      I know it’s really quite difficult to make the right decisions sometimes, but don’t worry, here’s a guide for you:

      How To Make Good Decisions All The Time

      7. Passion and enthusiasm

      Expressive. Active. Energetic. These are words best describe a passionate leader.

      Great leaders are lively, driven and are possessed with zeal and purpose. It’s this passion that helps them achieve big results. If you want to emulate their success, then you need to develop passion and enthusiasm for the work at hand, and the end goals.

      Take a look at this Passion Pyramid to find out how importance a leader’s passion is to the team:

        One way to do this is to find what motivates you, and keep your focus firmly on that. For example, i f you’re motivated by helping others, then make sure your role and company are both suited to realizing this. If you’re motivated by money, then put your focus on achieving bonuses and pay rises.

        Take a look at Leo Babauta’s guide on how to find your passion.

        8. Accountability and responsibility

        Exceptional leaders know that at all times they’ll need to take responsibility for tasks and their results. This includes things likes individual and team performance, as well as being accountable for when things go wrong.

        When negative things occur (and you can guarantee they will from time-to-time), a great leader will immediately step in and take responsibility. Initially, they’ll try to resolve the problem in as quick and smooth a way as possible. But if this is not feasible, they’ll be sure to say that the buck stops with them – and they take full responsibility for what has happened.

        To develop your leadership skills, you must never shy away from responsibility or accountability. If you prefer to sweep mistakes under the carpet, then you’re demonstrating non-leadership traits. Try owning up to issues and finding solutions to them. By doing this, you’ll immediately gain people’s respect.

        Find out some tips on how to be a more responsible person here.

        9. Focus

        Distractions are everywhere. And it takes major focus to stay committed to tasks and goals. The best leaders understand this, and therefore, they’re always looking at ways to boost their team’s focus.

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        One way leaders do this, is to keep their team intensely focused on the bigger picture. This might entail allocating specific time for tasks and eliminating any non-essential work.

        If you’re easily knocked off track, you’ll need to spend some time boosting your focus. Try planning your day, week, month and year to help ensure that you don’t fall behind with achieving your goals. Check out the 7 strategies of staying super focus recommended by a productivity coach.

        10. Ever-learning

        Leaders know that to be successful they need to continually update their skills and knowledge. They deliberately learn all they can about their profession and industry, so they’ll able to make confident and assured decisions.

        Why is ever learning so important? I’ll leave it to you to find out the reason here:

        If I Am Living a Good Life, Why Should I Bother Learning New Stuff?

        Imagine a CEO of a solar power company. His company may have amazing solar panels, but when it comes to discussing business with potential buyers, if the CEO or his sales team show a lack of understanding about the solar industry and future trends, etc., they’ll be unlikely to win any business.

        It’s exactly the same for you. If you’re a team leader at an electronics store, you should make sure you fully understand all the products that you offer. But go beyond just that, and read about upcoming products and trends that might change what customers are interesting in buying in the future.

        Traits for effective communication

        11. Empathy

        The best leaders understand the feeling of their team members, customers and associates. They know when to praise, and when to discuss problems (usually in private).

        Without empathy, leaders will be seen as cold, harsh and lacking understanding. They’re also likely to be regarded as untrustworthy.

        One way to ‘put yourself in someone else’s shoes’ is to have regular informal discussions with your colleagues. When you do this, you’ll quickly learn their fears and desires. And when you understand why they have these – you’ll be in a position to express empathy. You can also learn to be more sensitive to others’ needs by taking up these communication skills.

        12. Persuasive and influential

        Communications are at the heart of all transactions. Whether it’s pitching for a sale or resolving a customer complaint, how you communicate will determine the outcome.

        Charismatic leaders such as Richard Branson (Virgin) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) are confident and persuasive communicators. They know how to win over audiences and leave a lasting impressing in people’s minds.

        There’re some common barriers that you’ll have to overcome in order to communicate effectively:

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        How to learn effective communication? You could join the world-renowned U.S. nonprofit Toastmasters International. They’ve been training people in the art of public speaking since 1924, and members have included Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, and Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy.

        If you don’t have time to join a club, then practice your communications skills at home. You can do this in front of a mirror, or even better, video yourself presenting, and then ask some friends and family members for feedback. You’ll be amazed at what they pick up on.

        Traits for ensuring an engaging team

        13. Team building

        If you put a bunch of random people together, you may have a loose definition of a team. In reality, a real team has purpose, drive – and a leader lighting the way.

        If you’ve worked in different teams and with different managers, you’ll no doubt have come to this conclusion:

        Managers who treat their team members like children are unpopular with the team. Conversely, managers who treat their team members like adults, are respected and well-liked by the team.

        The days of disciplinarian managers are passed. Nowadays, successful team leaders know how to inspire and motivate their team, while keeping a harmonious atmosphere between all team members.

        14. Fostering creativity

        Solutions to problems are rarely black and white. Often it takes a leader who can ‘think outside the box’ to come up with answers. In other words, a leader must be creative, and also help to foster creativity and innovation throughout their team.

        Creativity is not only associated with pursuits such as arts, literature and music, running a team can be just as creative. There will be times every day when you need to come up with ideas and give guidelines for your team to come up with theirs to solve problems.

        Leadership is a journey of continuous learning

        Leadership is an amazing experience that will take you on roads you’ve never traveled before.

        Begin now to build your skills and experience, pick out the traits that you currently lack – and then work on developing those.

        It will take tons of practice and time before becoming an effective leader but eventually you will join the ranks of great leaders.

        Featured photo credit: unsplash via unsplash.com

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