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Last Updated on July 27, 2020

What Is Delegation and How Does It Enhance Team Management?

What Is Delegation and How Does It Enhance Team Management?

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.

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

More by this author

David Carpenter

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

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Last Updated on September 24, 2020

11 Things You Should Minimize for a Better Life

11 Things You Should Minimize for a Better Life

Ever heard the statement less is more? Is that a reality in your life or is that an area you are struggling with? Below are 11 different areas you can look at in your life to start to reduce as you focus on building a better life.

Let’s get to it:

Your Stuff

I call it stuff vs possessions. Stuff is what adds clutter in your life. It could be shoes, curios from the cute store in your town or excess appliances you need to throw out but never do. What is it that is overtaking your house that if you moved away you wouldn’t need it at all? Plan a Sunday afternoon throw out session. If throwing out doesn’t sit right then give it away to goodwill.

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Your Acquaintances

How many people are you interacting with throughout the week that don’t leave you feeling good about yourself? Who inspires you? Spend time with those people. Too often we keep people in our lives that we are no longer a fit for. Having too many old acquaintances adds to the excess in your life. If the relationship isn’t a win-win for you both then take a step back and focus on those that do.

Your Goals

Motivated to write out your list of goal for the next month or 3 months? That is awesome. Just a few works of caution. Don’t write down too many. Often people write down over ten goals. The brain can only remember so much and the reality is you won’t get to them all. I suggest you look at your goals with the mindset of single digits. No more than ten, but ideally less than five. Keep the list focused and realistic.

Your Commitments

A new favorite buzz saying in the self-help world is “No is the new Yes”. Take a moment to think about that saying. If you started saying no more how would your week and life look? Would you have more time to commit to the important goals and people in your life? Start to practice saying No when a request comes your way that you don’t want to do. If that feels too harsh try responding with these words “Let me get back to you”. Go away and come back with a no when you are in stronger mindset to say that.

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Your Multitasking

I am giving you permission to stop multitasking. We used to be told that multitasking was a good practice. We look so busy and aren’t we getting a lot done? In fact, no. Multitasking isn’t possible with the way our brain is wired. We need to focus on one key thing and keep our attention on that item until it is complete.

Your Newsfeed

I consider all the information from the Internet that is being feed into our smartphone, laptop and brain as “the newsfeed.” It doesn’t add to having more knowledge, it adds to information overload. Build time in your day or week when you are completely offline. I recommend turning your wireless off or setting your smart phone to airplane mode.

Your Cards

Open up your wallet and take a look inside. What is in it? For most of us it is more than one store, charge or loyalty card. Too many cards add to extra spending, bills and lack of clarity of where our money goes. Look at what cards you truly need and use. Get rid of the rest (scissors work!).

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Your Mail

Both the old style (postal) and your email inbox are areas to minimize. Look at ways to get off catalogs or reduce the magazine subscriptions as you never read all of them anyway. Figure out what mail, e.g. bank statements, can be changed to digital mail only. Try the same with your inbox. Sites like unroll.me can tell you how many email newsletters you are subscribed to and you can take your name off the list that you know longer need.

Your Sitting Time

Too much time in front of the screen is not good for the posture and health of your body. Try setting a timer so every 50 minutes you get up and stretch or go for a five minute walk. We don’t realize how bad our posture is when we sit for long periods of time. The studies on sitting disease are what led to standing and walking desks to be invented. If your office doesn’t have that get into a regular habit to stand and walk often in your day.

Too much time by yourself can led the mind to wander. When the mind wanders it will often return with negative thoughts and beliefs. While a walk by yourself and some downtime is rejuvenating take notice if you start to feel un- inspired or a little sad and make sure you aren’t spending too much time in your own company. This is especially important for those of us who work from home. Make sure to have people interaction throughout your day.

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Your Lack of Belief

If you want to make a change or achieve a goal in your life you need to truly, 100 percent believe you can. If you don’t believe in yourself then why should anyone else?

The difference between a successful person and someone struggling can be as simple as a mindset switch to believe that they will succeed.

What areas can you minimize to create more happiness, focus and productivity in your life? Implement just a handful from the list and you will find that the mindset of ‘Less is More’ will be what leads you on the path to a better life!

Featured photo credit: Samantha Gades via unsplash.com

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