Effective leaders know how to delegate — one of the most important skills managers must possess. Effective delegation helps everyone to focus on high-value tasks while avoiding overloaded schedules.
While it might seem easy to divvy out tasks and leave it at that, leaders should leverage delegation strategies to get the most out of their team. It will leave them with more time to focus on high-level projects while giving greater autonomy to their employees.
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What Is Delegation?
Delegation is the managerial responsibility of assigning responsibilities to and sharing responsibilities with others. In business, managers at all levels practice delegation, as it opens up their schedules to work on more valuable projects while giving employees greater autonomy.
Careful delegation saves time, provides managers and their employees with growth opportunities, and empowers workers to up their productivity. A survey conducted by Gallup even found that CEOs with strong delegation skills produce 33% more revenue than their counterparts.
Strong delegation centers on assigning tasks with intention, taking into account each individual employee’s wants and needs.
How To Delegate at Work
Delegating involves knowing when to hand out assignments and who receives them. Managers cannot expect to work on every detail of their team’s projects. Instead, they must decide which tasks to keep and which to delegate.
To figure out when it makes sense to delegate a task, ask yourself:
- Does this task require expertise I do not have? Who on the team has the skills needed to complete it?
- Does this task align with the expressed interests of other team members? Can this task help an employee grow in their career?
- Will this task occur regularly (and therefore it makes sense to delegate it)?
- Do I have enough time to manage a delegated task?
- Does my team have space or time to work on more assignments?
In general, you want to take on long-term, high-value tasks while handing out lower-stake ones to direct reports.
When selecting whom to hand out a task to, consider an employee’s expertise, current workload, and desired career growth. For instance, if a direct report expressed interest in more number-oriented work, you could assign them tasks dealing with data.
However, not every task aligns perfectly with what an employee wants. Remember to prioritize your team’s contributions to the organization.
How To Delegate Effectively
1. Assess priorities
Jot down your team’s responsibilities and figure out what matters most. You could make use of the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, which categorizes tasks into four categories:
- Important and urgent
- Not important and not urgent
You should take on important and urgent tasks or delegate them only to workers you trust. Delegate less important but urgent tasks to your team members to start.
For important but less urgent tasks, plan ahead and figure out if you can delegate any sub-tasks in the future. Forgo tasks that are neither important nor urgent.
2. Analyze your team's strengths
Before delegating tasks, analyze the overall strengths and weaknesses of each team member. One might have a knack for graphic design while another succeeds at project management.
Understand the ins and outs of your team to ensure you assign tasks they can excel at. Handing out tasks without paying attention to each individual will de-motivate employees and stunt productivity.
3. Communicate with your team
Remember to explain the purpose of the work when handing out assignments. You want to cover:
- Why are we doing this task?
- Whom will this task impact?
- When is this task due?
- How can we complete this task?
Your direct reports should understand the context behind their assignments. If they have any questions or concerns, encourage them to express them. Before finalizing any assignment, ensure you and the employee are on the same page.
4. Provide learning opportunities
Not every employee has the skills needed to get a task done. If you find yourself needing to delegate a task to an employee who lacks expertise, offer them learning opportunities.
Rather than micromanaging and providing a step-by-step guide, give them tools — such as online courses or articles — so they can learn independently.
5. Assign tasks aligned with career goals
Employees often want work that aligns with their broader career goals. When delegating tasks, consider how they fit into each individual’s professional aspirations. For example, someone who hopes to manage people one day would find fulfillment mentoring another employee.
6. Empower your team to experiment and make mistakes
Part of task delegation includes employees taking full ownership of their assignments, failures and all. Yet two in five employees spend almost half their time at work worrying about making mistakes.
Encourage your team to embrace mistakes so they feel empowered to take ownership of new responsibilities. Communicate this message regularly, and share your own failures when they arise.
7. Check in regularly
Micromanaging can stifle an employee’s ability to work on a task. Still, you don’t want to be totally hands off. Check in with your direct reports and ask them to send progress reports every so often, detailing their work and any questions they have.
8. Keep an open mind
You likely have a way about approaching tasks. However, your employees likely work differently from you. So, when asking them how they would tackle assignments, stay open-minded. You can express curiosity regarding their methodology, but encourage them to work through assignments in their own way.
9. Reserve your time for high-value projects
Delegating inherently frees up your schedule to work on more important projects. However, you can easily fall into a cycle of taking on more low-value tasks. Instead, keep your time available for high-value projects, such as long-term strategizing, hiring, or budgeting.
10. Praise successful workers
According to a study conducted by Globoforce, regularly praising workers for their success makes them eight times more engaged than employees receiving more infrequent recognition.
If an employee completes an assignment successfully, remember to praise them. You could even give high-performing employees small rewards, such as bonuses.
11. Ask for feedback
As a manager, you should seek feedback from your employees as you divvy out tasks. Ask your employees about their workload and which assignments they enjoy most regularly. If they express a lack of interest in a specific project, consider reassigning it in the future.
How To Delegate Better
Improving your delegation skills comes down to practice, so make delegating something you do often. Take stock every month of your team’s priorities and how they fit into your direct report’s expertise and workloads.
To measure your performance in delegating, you could survey employees to get a pulse check on their satisfaction. You could then look at recurring themes or trends.
You might notice, for example, that employees feel somewhat overwhelmed with their workload — a sign to pull back on assignments. You might even notice workers want more assignments, a nod to delegate more tasks.