You could probably paint your living room yourself in a few days. Or you could think about inviting more than three friends. If each of you paints a wall, you could finish the job by noon and all enjoy a pizza together.
It is intuitive to understand that a job can be done faster with more hands, but in the workplace some managers find it difficult to let go and delegate tasks. Whether you’re painting a room or launching a new product, sharing tasks is often the most effective way to get things done.
What is delegation?
Delegation is the practice of distributing work and responsibilities between employees or team members. Effective delegation allows your employees to complete projects faster, develop new skills, and help your team maximize productivity.
Managers can delegate tasks to employees to balance workloads or assign employees to projects that match their skills and career goals. As a manager, improving your delegation skills can give you more time to focus on the big picture and become a more effective leader.
What are the benefits of learning to delegate effectively?
Properly delegating work is a win-win situation – it benefits both managers and employees. Consider how delegating can help your team achieve their goals:
- Complete projects quickly. Your team can approach and complete tasks faster when each member has clear direction and an opportunity to contribute.
- Reduce stress. Delegating tasks evenly can reduce an individual’s workload and ensure that too much work doesn’t pile up on a single person, minimizing stress for everyone.
- Increase job satisfaction. When you give your employees the opportunity to take on meaningful and challenging tasks, you can feel valued.
- Improve accuracy. Mistakes can happen when an employee is overwhelmed with too many tasks. Effective delegation can ensure that each team member has enough time to produce quality work. It can also reduce your own workload, giving you time to review the final product.
- Encourage professional growth. Giving your employees more responsibility allows them to grow and develop new skills.
What are the challenges of delegating effectively?
Despite the potential benefits, many managers still find it difficult to embrace a delegation process. Consider the reasons why managers sometimes shy away from delegating:
- loss of control Some managers may have a desire to remain in control of certain tasks. Managers can address these concerns and demonstrate effective leadership by working collaboratively with employees on a project to achieve desired outcomes.
- Fear of falling behind. Some managers worry that it will take too long to explain a task to an employee, leading to missed deadlines. That may be true in the short term, but taking the time to bring your people up to speed can prepare your team for long-term success. When a similar delegated task comes up, they are ready to go.
- interest in the project. Managers may refuse to delegate exciting or important projects to other employees because they are interested in the work themselves. However, the main job of a manager is to support the team. Sharing challenging tasks can help team members stay on task.
- worry about the team. Fear of overloading employees can discourage a manager from delegating. Good communication can facilitate this process. Managers can talk to team members to gauge their bandwidth before assigning work.
When should work be delegated?
Learning to delegate is important, but you don’t have to give up your entire job. Here are some reasons to think about assigning tasks to other team members:
- growth opportunities. If a team member has expressed an interest in a particular area, the delegation may provide opportunities for professional development. For example, an employee interested in analytics could start pulling data for quarterly reports.
- Increased workload. When you have too much on your plate, it can be difficult to be an effective manager. Use delegation to ensure you have time to properly complete all aspects of your own work.
- skills match. When a new project is unique to a particular person’s skills or background, delegating can be a way to use their experience effectively. If your company launches a new email campaign targeting farmers and one of your copywriters raises chickens at home, they may bring unique insights to the project.
How to delegate effectively as a manager
Consider these five steps to set up a clear delegation process for your team:
Before you delegate responsibility, take the time to consult with your employees. Provide context for any new projects and assess their ability to take on more work.
2. Understand the strengths of each employee
When you understand your people, you can delegate the right tasks to the right person. Make an effort to understand your team’s professional background, individual work styles, and interests.
3. Give instructions
When delegating a task, provide clear instructions so your employee can start work with confidence. Include information about how the project can be completed and why it is important to the team.
4. Answer questions
Be a resource for your team. Make sure your employees know they can turn to you if they need clarification or help along the way.
5. Be open to feedback
Be open to feedback on the scope and type of work you are delegating. Employees may feel they have too much or too little work, or that they need extra support to work effectively.
Delegation practices that you as a manager should avoid
While delegation has clear benefits, managers should avoid:
- micromanagement. Monitoring every step of the process is inefficient and unlikely to improve performance. Monitoring progress is fine, but give your employees space to do their work.
- take out credit. If you’re presenting team members’ work or ideas, be sure to include them. Taking credit for someone else’s work can hurt team morale.
- I don’t check in Although you want to avoid micromanagement, it’s also possible that you’re being too conservative. Consider setting up weekly check-ins or asking for progress updates to ensure your employees stay on track.
- No review of work. Review projects to ensure they completed successfully. Ultimate responsibility for your team’s work rests with the manager, so double checking is in your best interests.
- Don’t give feedback. Provide feedback to let your team know how they’re doing. Positive feedback builds trust, while constructive feedback helps employees improve.
- delegate management tasks. Avoid delegating managerial responsibilities that fall outside of a person’s job description. Colleagues can give each other feedback, for example, but it is always the manager’s job to give formal performance reviews.
- delegation to the top. Upward delegation occurs when an employee at a lower level gives delegated work back to someone at a higher organizational level. Before accepting an employee’s job, ask yourself why they couldn’t do the job. This can be a sign that they need extra support or that they lack the skills or abilities for the job.
How to delegate FAQ
Can I ensure that an employee is not overwhelmed when delegating new tasks?
Work to develop a deep understanding of your team’s capacity before assigning tasks. Maintain open communication with your employees and ask for feedback on their workload. If an employee has too much on their to-do list, be ready to adjust deadlines or shift priorities. Divide time-consuming tasks among team members.
What do I do if I delegate a task and it’s performed incorrectly?
If a task returns with errors, talk to the responsible team member. Express your concerns, provide specific feedback, and give them an opportunity to ask questions. Ask the employee to make any necessary changes and encourage them to seek help if needed. Next time, schedule meetings to review progress and give employees the information they need to do their job effectively. This is to prevent errors before they occur.
What factors should be considered when choosing delegates?
Strive to match employees’ strengths and interests with appropriate projects. Also, consider each team member’s current workload and other responsibilities before assigning them tasks.