How to delegate effectively
Delegating responsibilities is easier said than done, but as it develops trust and empowers people, it's a skill worth practicing. Here are 7 ways to delegate more effectively.
In 7 reasons micromanagement is bad for you and your business we highlighted some of the damaging effects micromanagement can have on managers and employees, company culture and ultimately on your business.
The ability to delegate is the missing leadership skill wherever micromanagement is at play.
Delegation is difficult, because it involves a perceived loss of control over important projects which you may have initiated, not always being there when employees need your expert advice, and an inability to stay on top of every minute detail happening under your watch. However, the benefits include an increase in productivity, preventing burnout in managers and employees, and innovative solutions.
The productivity gains alone make delegating a critical skill for any leader and it is something you can practice and become better at. Here are certain principles and practices to put in place to become a natural at delegating.
7 ways to delegate effectively
1. Prioritise tasks
Not all tasks need to or ought to be delegated. There are certain tasks that will only be done by you or will always need final approval from you.
Establish a priority system to guide you in making these decisions. High-effort, low-skill tasks can always be delegated, freeing you up to focus your attention and efforts on those tasks which can’t be delegated.
2. Know your team
Don’t just delegate whatever tasks you’re not going to do yourself to random people in your team. You can be more strategic about it. Match task requirements to employee abilities and passions. This will ensure project and employee success.
Prioritising and distributing tasks both require you to know your team, their strengths and limits and where they perhaps need to be challenged.
Very importantly, know your own limits as a team member. Allow employees with specialist skills which you lack to do the work that they can do better than you.
3. Communicate clearly
Avoid being vague when delegating tasks. Delegating does not mean you should stop leading your team. In fact, it requires even more effective leadership and communication. Communicate project timelines and desired outcomes from the beginning.
Start with a broad overview, making sure everyone is on the same page before sending them away with detailed instructions. Disastrous outcomes can be largely avoided simply by communicating clear expectations from the beginning.
4. Invite responsibility
It’s not only about helping each employee understand their task at hand, but also their role in the team and how specific responsibilities are chosen to support their personal growth.
Each employee is affirmed as a team member with a unique contribution to make. Responsibility given in this way invites employees to take responsibility of the task they have been entrusted with.
5. Touch base
Check in with each employee from time to time. Make sure everyone has the necessary tools and resources they need to complete their task and that they are still on track.
Be available to advise where necessary, without taking any responsibility away from them. Ask questions and allow them to lead discussions on their progress. More complex tasks might require more regular interactions of this sort.
6. Recognise efforts, celebrate successes
Successful delegation includes building trust between you and your employees and empowering them to take on greater responsibility and grow in experience and ability. It begins by recognising and thanking them for their contributions and encouraging them by celebrating growth and success along the way.
Entrusting people with more responsibility helps them grow in confidence and motivates and empowers them to do a better job in the future.
Martin Zwilling from Startup Professionals reminds one that while thanking employees is such a simple step, it is one of the hardest for many managers to learn. But, he urges, “It will inspire loyalty, provide real satisfaction for work done, and become the basis for mentoring and performance reviews.”
7. Use feedback loops
Along with recognition and praise, there is also room and a need for constructive criticism. This does not merely involve an evaluation of outcomes, but also of processes and your ability to delegate.
It is also about inviting employees to share their thoughts on whether they feel fully responsible for tasks given to them, whether they believe the tasks are correctly assigned considering their skill sets, and whether they are provided with enough information and resources to complete their tasks.
At first, thinking strategically about delegating tasks might feel like a series of unnecessary planning meetings and team assessments. Over time, however, it creates a transparent working environment in which managers trust their employees with responsibilities and employees are empowered to contribute more meaningfully to the company.
Remember, it is an ongoing process and conversation between team members who are learning to work better together as they pursue shared goals.