How to Delegate Effectively

How to Delegate Effectively

Delegation may not come naturally to everyone, but it’s a critical management and leadership skill you, as a business owner and entrepreneur, can develop.  It certainly saves you time and allows you to focus on more critical tasks.  But we often overlook the benefits it provides to others in your company. When done effectively, delegation helps you teach, develop and empower others in your company – something that contributes to employee satisfaction and retention.

So, if delegation is so important to business success, why do people avoid it? For some owners, it’s a matter of trust – believing they will do the task as well as you. Others may not have the right people for the tasks they wish to delegate. But in many cases, people avoid delegating because it takes time and effort to do it right.

Those with children can certainly relate to this concept. It’s easier to tie a child’s shoelaces than teach him/her to tie them. But once taught, your child feels empowered and you save time … and likely are proud of their accomplishment!

Great leaders are also terrific teachers. Look for ways to give a little more responsibility to those who work for you.  When you help them develop new skills, everyone wins.

3 Keys to Delegate Effectively

Effective delegation requires three things:  choosing the right tasks to delegate, identifying the right people, and doing it the right way.  So let’s explore each and I’ll share some ideas to help you delegate effectively in your business.

Choose the right tasks

Not all tasks should be delegated. As a business owner, there are things that you should do or spearhead. Tasks that are critical to your long-term success need your attention. Recruiting and hiring, developing team members, strategic planning or initiatives, and confidential information come to mind.

What tasks should you delegate? If you are uncertain, take a week or two to write down the tasks, big or small, you do. You may also come up with some projects you haven’t done because of time constraints. Add them to the list as well. Use the list to identify tasks or projects you can and should delegate.

As you go through each task on the list, here are a few things to consider:

  • Is it a recurring task, one that you do again and again? Delegating these can free up time now and in the future.
  • Does this task have short deadlines or turnaround times? Avoid delegating things at the last minute. These tasks may need to be delegated in the future – when you have time to do them right.
  • Can this task provide a way to help develop a skill for one of your team members? Think empowerment.
  • Is this a task critical to your company’s long-term success?  If so, you may delegate portions of the work but still, maintain overall accountability.

Choose the right people to delegate effectively

If you have people on staff with extra time and needed skills or expertise, it certainly makes it easier to delegate effectively. Plus, it’s a great way to get them more engaged, help them use and develop other skills and bring a higher level of purpose to their job.

But don’t let your current situation stop you from delegating. Consider part-time help or outsourcing. My clients have effectively used all three options to help them shift work to others and focus on the right stuff – a key to revenue and profit growth.

Now it’s time to match the tasks with the right people. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Is there someone who has the skills, knowledge, or expertise to do the task with appropriate direction and training from you?
  • Is there someone who has the desire to grow in your company? Some employees love to take on new responsibilities – others don’t. Understanding your staff and their long-term goals are key, but remember to match tasks with skills so it’s a win-win.
  • Is there someone who has time to take on more work? Sometimes the best person for the task is simply too busy to take on more work. Why not consider reshuffling responsibilities among the rest of the team? Take some of the ideal employee’s work and distribute it to others — with the training of course!

If you have the right people already, you’ve overcome a big hurdle with delegation. Just remember, YOU must be willing and able to dedicate the time and resources to help them succeed. In addition, be patient with your team. It will likely take them longer to do new tasks or projects – they are learning. But with your help, they will become competent and efficient.

Delegate the right way

Effective delegation requires a combination of instruction, coaching, answering ongoing questions, and follow-up. You are transferring knowledge to someone else to help them develop new skills and capabilities. It takes time and patience to be the leader and teacher your team needs.

Here are some suggestions to help you delegate successfully to others:

  • Explain clearly what needs to be done – and the desired outcomes or results. Avoid the simple handoff with a “Can you take care of this” comment. It will leave you and the employee frustrated.
  • Discuss expectations as it relates to initiative and feedback. Should the employee wait for your instructions or make recommendations and decisions? Be clear and use discretion based on the task and individual. You can always expand authority as the employee develops.
  • Provide adequate support and be available to answer questions along the way. This is important so don’t ignore it.
  • Focus on results, not how it is done. If you have ideas or systems, share them where appropriate. But, encourage or empower the person to control the process.  He/she may find better ways to do things.
  • Discuss and agree upon timelines, deadlines, and checkpoints (milestones) along the way. If appropriate, pre-schedule progress update conversations.
  • Review work submitted, provide timely feedback, and adjust as needed. Your people need feedback to develop so don’t make them wait for weeks or longer.
  • Build motivation and commitment. Help the employee understand why the tasks/projects are important. Connect what they are doing to the success of the business. Provide recognition and rewards when deserved – and consequences, if appropriate.

Finally, two things you should also avoid. First, upward delegation or shifting decisions or tasks back to you. This can occur when an employee gets stuck or has a problem. When they do, don’t jump in or simply provide an answer. Instead, use this as a learning opportunity. Ask for their recommendation or how would they handle it. Help them become problem solvers.

Second, avoid micromanaging. Effective delegation requires a balance between giving the employee space to shine while monitoring enough to ensure the job is done effectively. Don’t micromanage but do the follow-up necessary. Remember, you as the owner or manager are ultimately accountable.

Delegation is a leadership skill and time management strategy that you must practice to master. But when you learn to delegate effectively you will be pleased with the results – more time for you and a more empowered, satisfied team.

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