Delegation does not come naturally to most people, but it is a critical business skill that you can develop. When you learn how to delegate effectively, you’ll be less stressed, make better use of your time and skills, help develop your people and substantially increase the amount of work you and your team produce.
If delegation is so important to business success, why do people avoid it? Some owners believe they can do it better themselves. Others may not have the right people for the tasks they wish to delegate. But most often 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 shoe laces than teach him/her to tie them. But once taught, your child feels empowered and you save time!
3 Keys to Delegate Effectively
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 every task, big and small, you perform each day. You may also come up with some tasks that should be done, but are not because you don’t have the time. Add these 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 it 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
If you have people on staff with extra time and needed skills or expertise, it certainly makes delegation easier. 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 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 relating to initiative and feedback. Let the person know whether to wait for your instructions or make recommendations and decisions. 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 along the way (milestones). 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, avoid “upward delegation” or shifting of decisions or tasks back to you. The employee may encounter a problem or have questions. When they do, don’t jump in or simply provide an answer. Instead, use this as a learning opportunity. Ask for their recommendation – how would they handle it? Help them become a problem solver.
Avoid micromanagement. 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 follow-up. Remember, you as the owner or manager are ultimately accountable.
Delegation is a 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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