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How to be an effective delegator

Delegating seems to be one of those issues that are widespread and generally not done correctly. 

Often staff members who are promoted, struggle with now being the person who has to delegate work to the rest of the team. Not only to delegate but also to manage the process until the end. 

The thing is, there is one part of delegating that can either make or break the process and it is often the difference between failure and success. That aspect is trust. You have to be able to trust the people in your team to do the work and do it to a consistently high standard. 

Now, delegating is not just a method of getting tasks off your shoulders, it is vital for the development of each individual in your team. They grow by doing and knowing they have the support when they need it. 

Let’s face it, moving up the ladder into a managerial role requires the person to develop new skills and focus on a new set of deliverables. It is very common for new managers to hold onto as much of the work as they can and as a result delegate far too little work to the team. This could be because you feel you don’t want to overburden your team with too much work or it could be for several reasons such as not having the needed skills to be firm with the team, wanting to come across as a relaxed manager whom everyone likes. Stop that if it sounds like you. You are not doing yourself or your team any favours. 

Your new position means new work to focus on and if you are still stuck with a pile of old work or taking on too much and not delegating, you will come up short as you will not be able to focus on the new work that comes with the new position. 

Having a full plate is often a sign that you are not delegating enough. If you are still performing about 50% of the tasks you were in your old position, that is also a sign that you are holding onto too much and not delegating effectively. Around 15% of your old work initially is a sign you are on the right track. 

Being a control freak and a micromanager is completely against the spirit of delegation. If you only trust your work, you have a problem. If you think you and only you are capable of doing it the best and no one else can, you also might have control issues. This could also signal that you are not developing your basket of skills within your team and as such, some skills are lacking. Let’s be here, successful managers develop their team constantly to the point that nothing changes, and the manager is not missed while on leave. The team is strong enough to continue without the manager. When you are at this point, you can be sure what you are doing is working. 

You might feel it will be easier to just do the task yourself than it would be to explain it to a team member. What happens when this task is something that needs to be completed regularly? Do you think it would save you time and effort to upskill a team member to complete the task and then delegate the task permanently to that employee? Wow, you just got another task off your plate and, you increased your skills basket for your team. Imagine that employee shows others in the team how to perform the task correctly? Skills for days, no?

Your team needs you to support them and be the manager they need and want. This does not mean being weak or a pushover. They will not respect you. Everyone has work so there is nothing special about delegating tasks to your team. If you feel they have too much, then you could ask them if they have capacity. Besides, if you are a great manager, your team members will communicate with you when they feel like there is far too much on their plate. Why? Because they respect and trust you and they can be open and honest with you. If this, is you pat yourself on the back for being such a great manager?

Maybe you are not sure if you could or should delegate certain tasks. Try asking yourself if the task falls into your core job requirements or if there is an opportunity for someone in the team to take this over and as a result learn some new skills? When you can delegate some of the tasks, you might just find you have more time on your hands to focus on developing your team and each person as an individual. When you focus on the people in your team as individuals, well things start working out pretty well. Happy teams produce better work of higher quality and consistently too.

Here are some tips to help you improve your delegation game.

  • Choose to delegate a certain task to an employee who has some of the skills needed but can use the new task to develop new skills. So, delegate the task to the correct person. This means you need to actually think about who would be best.
  • Be upfront about the goal of the task as well as the expectations of the end goal. Arm your employee with as much information as you can give them. Knowing why a task needs to be completed goes a long way to getting you the buy-in you need for delegation to be successful. So, in short mention the what and the why but leave the employee to accomplish the task in their way. Nothing kills a desire to be better than being told exactly how to complete a task and allowing no deviation. Remember your employees are all individuals so allow some room for variances in the end goal.
  • There will be certain parts of the task that need to be completed for the task to be marked off as done. Depending on the task, you may need to check the task before it can be marked as complete. You may not need to check the work and you trust the employee to complete the work correctly so you can give them more leeway. So, decide at which point the task is complete and discuss this.
  • Agree and set clear expectations. Does your employee have free reign on how the task is completed? If it’s a task that needs to go into a very rigid format. Have this discussion before the task needs to be completed so that everyone is clear on who is involved with what and what the expectations are. 
  • You need to find the right balance between offering support and hanging back and not getting too involved. Doing either of these will either show you are unwilling or not interested in supporting and helping the employee to master the new task, or it will show that you do not trust the employee to do the work. Your best bet is to ask the employee what form your support should take. A weekly catch-up. A more formal meeting or just a casual phone call to check-in. The employee will know what they feel comfortable with.
  • Agree on the due date. 
  • Set milestones if the project is complex. This will help the employee to feel more confident if they are hitting all the milestones by the correct dates. This will also help keep track of any issues or challenges.

So, next time you find yourself spinning out due to a heavy workload, stop and decide which tasks can be delegated and follow the above tips to get that task to someone who can learn from it and grow your team’s skills basket. The results of the successful delegation will be seen quickly and will give you time to focus on your development as well as other parts of your new role.

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