The Art of Effective Delegation: Learning to Let Go
By: Julie Ruben Rodney | Published in TLOMA Today Newsletter >>
Are you a successful delegator?
Learning how to delegate and ensuring your work is completed correctly, on time and within budget is an essential skill all managers should have. Unfortunately, many managers do not pay enough attention to the delegation process and often struggle with relinquishing some of their responsibilities. Successful managers know what tasks to delegate so they can have more time to plan, to collaborate with others, and to monitor the performance of their team. The process of delegation in the workplace involves the sharing or transfer of authority and responsibility from manager or peer to another employee. Through delegation, you as a leader can coach your people and boost the productivity of your team. Here are ways to ensure your approach to delegation will allow you to optimize your time and accomplish your goals.
When planning to delegate, ask yourself…
- Do I hold onto tasks that I enjoy doing but make sense for someone else to be doing?
- Do I hold onto work to ensure the work is done “correctly”?
- Do I use delegation to motivate my direct reports?
- When I delegate, do I set clear expectations? (i.e) setting goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
Conditions for Delegating
When deciding on tasks to delegate, make sure the conditions for delegating are right. The person that you choose to delegate to must be able to do the job or at least have the aptitude to learn the skills needed to complete the task.
Discerning whether the individual wants to learn how to do a certain task can be difficult, ensure to observe body language and facial expressions when talking about the task. Extremely motivated employees will typically be excited they have been chosen for a task, and feel empowered by it. Paying attention to subtle cues will aid you in deciding what tasks should be given to which team members.
Next, define the task and clearly articulate the desired outcome to the employee. Once it is established that you and your team member are comfortable with the task, set goals with timelines and try to ensure the delegated task provides the individual the opportunity to complete the full task. Once delegated, give the employee control over the task and follow up, but make sure the employee feels they are trusted with the work that has been given to them.
It is important to know when to delegate, but it is equally important to know when not to delegate.
Do not delegate tasks when:
- The task is exclusively in your area of responsibility
- The team member is not qualified
- Your superiors requested that you complete this task
- The deadline is unreasonable and requires your immediate attention
Approaches to Delegation
When delegating, it is essential to consider the approach that best fits the task, the employee and your own preferences. Based on the confidence you have in the employee to complete the task and the importance of the task itself, a variety of approaches may be considered.
When dealing with a highly important task, but the individual you are delegating to may not be able to fully complete the task correctly, use a more direct approach. Let the employee know why you are using this approach and use specific, clear instructions that will not require a high level of decision-making when undertaking the task. You can ask the individual to “follow these instructions precisely” when going over the task.
For tasks with flexible timelines, requiring limited skills, and little risk, the work can be delegated to new team members who can use this opportunity to develop and grow their skills. Using a development approach, ask the team member to research, conduct an analysis and propose a course of action in order to complete the task. You can tell the employee to, “look into this and let me know what options there are. We’ll decide together.”
Conversely, if a task is extremely important and the employee you are delegating to is highly capable, use more of a dialogue approach. The individual will have the authority to do their own analysis of the situation, come up with recommendations and provide you with the chance to make the final review. This can involve you asking the employee to, “give me your analysis of the situation and recommendations. I’ll let you know whether or not to proceed.”
Finally, if the task has very little importance and you have high confidence in the employee you are delegating to, you can use more of a disengaged approach. Once you have delegated the task, disengage and be “hands-off.” Do not get involved in the process until the task is completed and you are informed of the results. You can tell the individual to, “decide on your own, take action, let me know what you did and what the outcome was.”
Delegation is a powerful tool that, if used effectively, will ease stress and improve efficiency. When delegating work, the right people will be completing the right tasks which will not only contribute to the quality of work, but improve team cohesion. Using delegation to allow for learning opportunities for your team will allow for members of your team to develop and grow. This is not only an opportunity for the development of your team; delegation presents opportunities for the delegator to learn as well. Through coaching and mentoring, opportunities will present themselves which will allow you to practice your delegation skills while developing your team.