The Skill of Delegating
Delegation is key to maximizing our productivity and keeping ourselves rational during tight deadlines or heavy workloads. The trouble is that many of us don’t know how to effective delegate or don’t like to give up full control. But here are some things that can happen if you don’t delegate:
- You limit your development and the development of your colleagues
- It may be interpreted as arrogance on your part since you believe no one else can do something as well as you do
- It may be interpreted that you don’t trust anyone and this can be demotivating for others
- You may lose control of all that you have to do and turn in a poor performance
- You can be headed for burnout
Delegating tasks is a skill that can be learned and improved upon over time. Here are some skills to consider putting into practice:
Learn to let go. Sometimes we feel so dedicated to completing our own work that we refuse to let other people help. Or we may fear that no one else has the skills or abilities needed to perform the work successfully. Whatever the case may be (and this can apply to your personal life too), you need to be to learn to let go. I’m a big believer in baby steps so start small. Delegate the smallest tasks first. As you get more comfortable and your delegations skills grow, gradually work your way up to larger tasks.
Play to your teams’ strengths. If you are the leader, you’ll have to learn the subtleties of your teammates. You should know each individual’s strengths and weaknesses, including his or her current, and potential, range of skills. When delegating, take a look at your team and assign tasks to whoever has the greatest number of relevant skills for that task instead of who has the lightest workload or is the most convenient. It’s also important to be consistent because delegating the same type of tasks to the same individual will eventually increase that individual’s skill set for those tasks.
Always include instructions. Every good delegator provides basic and important information like expected outcomes and deadlines without micro-managing. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, suggests that you delegate results rather than methods: “For example, ‘Here’s what we are doing, here’s what we’re after. I want you to get the sale,’ instead of, ‘Follow up on those leads,” Covey says. Tell the person to whom you are delegating the goals or the milestones you what to achieve and let them handle the challenge in their own way. Don’t look for perfection or micromanage and remember someone else might complete a task differently than you would. You never know, you might learn something new!
Allow time for training. Just because someone on your team doesn’t have the ability to perform a certain task on your to-do list doesn’t mean the work can’t be delegated. Most skills can be learned so don’t be afraid to include teaching as a part of the delegation process. Taking the time now to teach and train can save you a lot of time in the future by not having to perform the task yourself.
Trust and follow up. Once a task is delegated, trust your teammate to execute it on his or her own terms and allow the person to tackle the work the way he or she feels is best. However, that doesn’t mean you should leave them completely alone. Plan a check-in meeting a couple days before the task is due to be completed or a series of check-in meetings to update progress on larger or more complicated tasks.
Say thank you and use feedback to improve delegation in the future. Feedback is an important part of the delegation process, and it works both ways. If a team or person has done well with a task you assigned, let them know by publicly thanking them and offering sincere praise. If things didn’t go well, don’t be afraid to give them some constructive criticism and consider additional training if necessary. Now invite the person or your team to share their thoughts on how you are doing with delegating–it’s an excellent chance for you to determine whether you’re providing enough information, or whether you’re assigning the right tasks to the right people.
Remember, delegating isn’t always easy, and the process isn’t always clear-cut, but the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll advance your skills to be an effective delegator. Understand that the process will never be perfect, but learning from your experiences and making ongoing improvements can help you and your team perform at the top of your game.
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