“It’s easier to do it than explain it” may be the most-heard excuse for not delegating work in an office. The truth, however, is that effective delegation offers more than enough benefits to balance the extra upfront effort, including allowing team members to use their knowledge and talents while building new skills, and improving employee confidence. Follow these tips to learn to delegate tasks.
1. Start small when delegating work to team members
Let go of certain tasks and responsibilities, but start slowly to become comfortable with delegation. First, assign one person to one small element, such as sending notifications to team members about a project meeting, preparing copies for the meeting, or gathering needed supplies. Gradually let loose more and more responsibility, prioritizing tasks until you keep the ones that no one else can complete. Share the rest with others.
2. Share challenges in task delegation
One reason that employees sometimes resist task-sharing is that they feel they are only given the trivial and boring jobs. When delegating, balance the routine and the challenging to make the work interesting. Offer team members the chance to learn new skills by sharing a new process or function with them.
3. Picking the right person is key
Offering a challenge to a team member is a fine thing as long as the challenge isn’t overwhelming. Match task requirements to employee abilities. Assign smaller tasks to newer team members to allow them to develop the confidence and competence to handle more complex projects. When necessary, teach others how to complete essential tasks so you can focus on those that require your direct touch. Also, take into consideration each employee’s current workload when delegating so they don’t become frustrated, and unable to complete old or new tasks. Think about team members’ preferred work styles, including whether they can work independently, or need frequent feedback.
4. Explain the reasons for delegating duties
Explain why you chose a particular person for a specific task, and why that task matters. Help the individual understand how completing the assigned task will help grow new skills, and how that may assist in career advancement. By sharing why you trust the team members to deal with the assignment, you build a positive relationship with them, and improve their self-confidence.
5. Delegation skills include communicating objectives
Stephen Covey, author of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, encourages leaders to delegate results, rather than methods. Communicate the objectives and measurable desired outcomes. Make sure that the delegatee understands the task, including how much time and other resources she or he should spend on the project. Ensure this understanding by having the team member reflect back the objectives to you. Writing them on a whiteboard helps keep them clear, and on everyone’s mind, as well.
6. Keep the delegation process moving with timelines
Assign delegated tasks early to avoid unnecessary pressure, and to give the delegatee time to plan. Establish a timeline with reasonable milestones and focused updates, without crossing the line to micromanaging. Allow extra time if workers must learn a new skill to complete an assignment and encourage them to tackle issues that arise on their own before coming to you. Help everyone keep track of milestones and deadlines with wall calendars displayed in easy-to-see locations.
7. Include authority when delegating work
Delegate the entire task to a single person. If the task is complicated, break it into smaller tasks to allow individual assignments. This provides motivation while avoiding any confusion about accountability for completion. Also, delegate any authority required for the task. The team member needs to be able to make necessary decisions without having to wait for permission to proceed. Having offered that authority, be careful not to snatch the project back too quickly if you find yourself unsatisfied with the progress.
8. Provide resources when delegating work to team members
Whether it’s physical resources, like color-coding labels, or enough time for completion, be sure team members have what they need to accomplish objectives. This may also include training, especially if the task requires using a new tool or process. Great leaders know to follow the “I do, we do, you do” method of teaching skills.
9. Communicating gratitude is a delegation skill
Let team members know you appreciate their work on delegated tasks with specific feedback. Tell workers what you saw that you liked. Send an email and recognize them publicly. One simple way to handle the public acclaim is with a bulletin board sharing your appreciation. When it’s feasible, reward good work, even if the “prize” is just an extra 15 minutes for lunch.
10. Add a debriefing session to the delegation process
After the project is complete, discuss the process with team members. This offers you the opportunity to better understand others’ thought processes. Knowing you are interested in their input breeds trust in team members for future delegation.