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Last Updated on December 1, 2020

What Is Delegation and How Does It Enhance Team Management?

What Is Delegation and How Does It Enhance Team Management?
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The ability to delegate is one of the hallmarks of a successful leader. Delegation is one of the best management tools for increasing employee morale, job satisfaction, trust between team members and manager, and the company’s bottom line. It also helps with time management.

While effective delegation techniques are rarely taught, the good news is that delegation is a skill like any other that can be acquired.

What is Delegation?

Delegation can be defined as “the act of empowering to act for another.”[1] With this bestowed power, a person, usually a subordinate, is able to carry out specific activities (normally given by a manager or supervisor). Delegation is a management tool designed to increase the efficiency of an organization.[2] It allows for the goals of the organization to be broken down into tasks and assigned to the team member best suited for the duty. With that said, most entrepreneurs and managers are notoriously bad at delegating. But why?

As stated earlier, most organizations don’t teach their managers how to delegate. However, there are a number of other reasons why managers are hesitant to delegate, including:

They Believe No One Can Do the Job as Well as They Can

Managers need to delegate because their responsibility is to oversee employees. They can’t and shouldn’t do all the work themselves. A leader’s job is to guide, motivate, and oversee their team members in order to reach a goal.

They Think It Takes Too Much Time to Train Someone

Part of guiding and motivating team members includes training. Yes, it will take extra time to train an employee on a new task, but you need to think of it as an investment. Imagine it takes an extra hour a day to train someone to do a task, and that training lasts a week. That’s five extra hours spent doing the task. However, after the first five days of the employee doing the task, you will have freed up five hours per week to devote to other issues.

There Is a Lack of Trust in Employees’ Motivation

Another part of a manager’s job is to develop their employees’ abilities in order to identify future leaders, as well as discover their strengths and weaknesses. Without delegation, you’ll never know the level of motivation your employees have.

They Want to Make Themselves Indispensable

If you’re worried about making yourself indispensable, you shouldn’t be. You are indispensable. Good managers and leaders are notoriously difficult to come by, and so are naturally indispensable to organizations. If you’re in a leadership position and worried about your job, learn how to be a better leader.

They Enjoy Doing the Work Themselves

While a lot of people do enjoy doing the work themselves, they like the creative process or just the idea that they can control the outcome and take credit for it. That’s not a manager’s job.

You need to be willing to give up control, accept that other people have different (and sometimes better) ways of doing things, and accept your role as facilitator or overseer.

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They Feel Bad About Giving More Work to an Overloaded Staff

Feeling that your staff is overloaded or overworked is pretty common for a manager. So, giving team members more to do can feel like you’re just dumping more work on them. However, when done right (more on that later), delegation can increase their motivation and job satisfaction.

Now that we’ve answered the question of what is delegation, let’s move on to the second part of the question:

How Does Delegation Enhance Team Management?

Effective delegation is one of the most important managerial skills you can have. The benefits of proper delegation go deeper than the increased productivity. This effects can be seen in:

Greater Trust Between Manager and Employee

When you give an employee the authority and autonomy to do a task, it is implied that you are trusting them to get it done. It also says that you think that they are competent enough to handle the task. This show of trust and confidence builds a bond between supervisor and subordinate.

Increase in Job Satisfaction

Delegating tasks or assignments to your team members allows them to take ownership and pride in their work. No one wants to be thought of as a cog in the machine, doing a job that anyone could do. Giving them the responsibility and authority to get the job done will go a long way towards helping them take pride in their work.

Increased Motivation

By delegating tasks to the appropriate employees, they get to take ownership of the result. This is their chance to shine. Everyone wants praise from the boss, and knowing that the result they come up with will be evaluated as a reflection of themselves is great motivation.

More Time for Other Important Activities

Just like a ship captain, leaders assess the conditions, plot the course, and steer the vessel. They may jump in when there’s a man down, but their main job is to worry about the big picture. Let your crew worry about paddling, and you just make sure they are going in the right direction.

In this way, you can free up time to participate in more important activities.

Developing New Skills in Your Team Members

Part of any manager’s job is to help your employees learn and grow. As employees perfect and add to their skill sets, they become more valuable to the company and the industry as a whole. This is part of their career development. It also makes your team much more flexible.

Great Evaluation Tool

As a manager, part of your job is to identify top performers and those worthy of promotion. You should also be thinking about who should replace you when you get promoted. By delegating responsibilities to your employees, you are in a great position to see who takes the bull by the horns and who only does the bare minimum.

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Taken together, the positive effects of delegation can have a synergistic effect on the efficiency, productivity and profitability of an organization.

How to Delegate Properly

We’ve talked about what delegation is and its benefits, but how can you be an effective delegator and reap the benefits we discussed? Here are some effective delegation techniques to help you get started.

1. Start From the Result and Move Backwards

When delegating a new responsibility to an employee, start by explaining what the outcome should look like. For example: “I’m going to put you in charge of X, and the purpose of X is to have ABC converted to DEF within two weeks and for under $100.” This is a way to set the goal without telling them how they must achieve it.

2. Give Your Employees Autonomy

This can be hard for managers, but you should try to step back and recognize that there are many different ways to solve a problem. By letting them figure out their own way of doing it, they will learn, and there will often be a better outcome.

3. Give Them the Authority to Do What You Ask

This is very important! Delegating responsibility for a task without giving them the authority needed to complete it is really just dumping more work on an employee. Instead of increasing motivation and job satisfaction, you’ll be creating resentment and anger.

4. Match Their Personality and Skill Set

Don’t give an introvert the task of running a meeting. Likewise, don’t put the extrovert in charge of accounting. You should have a good idea of who your employees are and what skills they possess. Delegate the right task to the right person.

5. Make Sure They Have the Right Resources

Make sure that the people you delegate to have enough time, money, training, supplies, work space and help from others to get the job done. If they don’t, then failure is not on them, it’s on you.

6. Supervise, Don’t Micromanage

The best way to do this is to establish a timeline with regular check-ins. This allows the employee autonomy while still being held accountable for the project moving forward. It also allows the employee to ask questions and receive input at regularly scheduled intervals.

7. Create a Motivating Environment

The most successful delegators are the ones that know when to be a cheerleader or coach and when to step in or step back. They are also there to celebrate the successes.

8. Be Tolerant of Mistakes

You’ll never have innovation without risk-taking, and you can’t have risk-taking without mistakes. Be tolerant and use mistakes as a learning tool, not as something to be afraid of.

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So far, we’ve dealt with the what, why and how of delegation, but how do we decide what tasks should be delegated?

Knowing What Should and Shouldn’t Be Delegated

There are a few different thoughts on this subject, one view is that, at a certain point, everything that can be delegated should be; with rare exception.

What Should Be Delegated

Conduct an audit using the six T’s to determine what tasks make the most sense to offload. [3]

1. Tiny

These are tasks that are so small that they seem inconsequential to tackle, but they add up. They are never important or urgent, and even if they only take a few minutes, they end up taking you out of the flow of more strategic work. For example, registering for a conference or event, adding it to your calendar, and booking the hotel and flight — on their own each of these things may not take much time, but taken together, they all add up.

2. Tedious

Tasks that are relatively simple probably are not the best use of your time. Very straightforward tasks can (and should) be handled by anyone but you.

For example, manually inputting a 100-item list into a spreadsheet and color-coding it or updating the KPIs in your presentation deck are all simple tasks that can be handed off.

3. Time-Consuming

These are tasks that, although they may be important and even somewhat complex, are time-consuming and do not require you to do the initial 80% of research. You can easily step in when the task is 80% complete and give approval, oversight, and/or direction on the next steps.

4. Teachable

These tasks, although appearing complicated at first, can be translated into a system and passed along, with you still providing quality checks and final approval.

For example, teaching one of your direct reports how to draft the presentation deck for the monthly all-hands meeting, and even how to be the one to deliver those updates to the team, can be a good way to free up time for yourself.

5. Terrible At

Tasks that fall into an area where you feel unequipped should generally be passed on to someone with strengths in that area. For example, if you aren’t sure how to organize the visual design of those PowerPoint slides for the team meeting, someone on your team will likely be able to step in.

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6. Time-Sensitive

These are tasks that are time-sensitive but compete with other priorities. There isn’t enough time to do them all at once, so you delegate an important and time-sensitive task that can be done in parallel to your other project-based deadlines.

For example, leaving your iPad on the plane after a flight and working to recover it before it goes completely missing into the airport lost and found abyss by calling customer service daily can take a lot of time and can be delegated to a subordinate.

What Shouldn’t Be Delegated

In contrast to the above, there are some tasks that should never be delegated and should always remain as the manager’s responsibility. Some of these include:

Company Vision and Mission Statements

These play an important role in the reputation of the company and should be taken as seriously as possible. Therefore, the responsibility for creating these should always lie with a manager or other company leader.

Hiring Decisions

Too many managers rely on outside agencies for their hiring decisions. While skill sets are important, evaluating how an employee will fit into the corporate culture is equally important, and this is best done face-to-face.

“Onboarding” Employees

It’s important for managers to take an active role in making new employees feel welcome. They should always be available and accessible to new employees.

Discipline

Passing off disciplinary duties to an administrative assistant or HR is often a sign of poor managerial skills. Managers can generally gain more respect from employees by handling this themselves.

Performance Reviews

Having employees do their own reviews and just signing off on them is a disservice to everyone involved. Managers should be personally involved in this process in order to get the most out of it.

Conclusion

At first glance, delegation can seem like more trouble than it’s worth. However, when done properly, the scope, breadth, and quality of work produced more than make up for any inconvenience.

You’ll be amazed at what happens when you arrange the workload so that you can focus only on the tasks with the highest priorities while others are working on meaningful and challenging assignments.

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By implementing the practices we’ve talked about here, you’ll be able to delegate the right projects to the right people in the right way, and that is a recipe for success.

More Tips About Delegating Tasks

Featured photo credit: CoWomen via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Delegation
[2] Harvard Business Review: When Empowering Employees Works , and When It Doesn’t
[3] Harvard Business Review: How to Decide Which Tasks to Delegate

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David Carpenter

Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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