Having a team to support you is an incredible opportunity, and you need to take advantage of the talents of your direct reports. Delegating—taking things off your plate and handing them off to others—is key to team, company, and individual success.
You get that. You know that part of your job is to hand tasks off to our team. So, it should be smooth sailing for us for the rest of your career. Just take those boring tasks that no one wants to do and hand them off to someone else.
Ahh, if only it were that easy. What no one tells you when you get promoted is that delegation is much harder than you think it’s going to be.
Why is it so hard to delegate appropriately? Here is my short answer: you head and heart make it hard to delegate. You think too much about what others will think when you delegate.
Stop worrying about delegation and just do it. Keep reading for some tips on how to choose what to delegate and how to do it effectively.
#1. Learn to Let Go
One of the hardest parts of delegating is learning to let go of the work you’ve been doing.
You have to accept that someone else is going to be taking on your work. You have to accept that they’re going to do it, and they’re going to do it well, even if it’s not exactly the way you would have done it.
You have to just accept it. To quote a tired refrain, “Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore.”
Look at the list of tasks you’re currently sitting on and list them all. It doesn’t matter if this list is pen and paper, digital, crayon, or Sharpie. Just list everything.
Once you have a list of all of the tasks, put them in order of importance.
Then, divide them up based on the level of skill they’ll take to complete and how long they’re going to take.
The tasks that are going to take the most skill to accomplish are the ones you should keep–for now.
The rest of them should be delegated to the rest of your team, based on the skills they have and the projects currently on their plate.
#3. Consider Your Employees’ Strengths
Take your employees’ strengths and weaknesses into consideration when deciding how to delegate your tasks.
As their leader, you have a good idea of who is best at different tasks, and you should use that knowledge to decide who is the best option to complete the task you’re currently delegating.
This should be obvious, but a lot of managers focus on the team member who has the lightest workload–as the best person to delegate to.
That is a mistake. Don’t be that manager.
Focus your attention on who has the required skill to complete the specific task.
#4. Be Clear–or Choose Not To
Be very, very clear in your instructions to your employees.
In order to have the best chance of success, your employee needs to know exactly what you’d like to have done and exactly how you’d like it done. Be sure there are no grey areas, no question about what to do, no question about when you need the task to be completed.
At the same time, you could take this tip and throw it out the window: you could decide to delegate and give the team member all the freedom they want to figure it out.
Either way can work just fine. But you need to decide which method works for the task, for the team member, and for you. Don’t leave it up to chance.
#5. Realize That No One is Going to Do the Work the Same Way You Do
No one is you except you, and unless you’re going to complete a task yourself, it’s never going to be completed exactly the way you do it.
Let it go (sound familiar?): it’s time to use your team’s strengths, not yours.
The goal is to get the work done. Not clone yourself.
#6. Start Small
One of the best ways to ease yourself into delegating is to start small. Don’t choose the biggest project you have and hand it off.
Use the list you created with tip #2 and figure out which tasks are the easiest and take the least amount of time. Start with those tasks.
Hand off those items, and when they are completed, correctly, and on time, it will build your comfort level and your employee’s confidence. Then you’ll feel better about the next, slightly bigger, task you give them.
#7. Leave Them Alone
Allow employees to begin to accomplish tasks without peering over their shoulders.
Avoid providing criticism unless your comments will dramatically improve the outcome of the project. Hold your tongue.
Of course you don’t want anyone to fail, but at the same time, you must allow them to accomplish tasks on their own.
Remember, to succeed as a manager, you have to . . . let go!
You will fail if you attempt to manage a team and do everyone’s work at the same time.
Once you learn how to delegate more and more, you’ll most likely find that your team accomplishes tasks in new and better ways than you did.
And then you get focus on managing the big picture because you’ve delegated effectively.
#8. Check In
After you’ve left your employee alone for a while with the task, then you can check in on the tasks you’ve delegated to them.
It’s OK to check. It’s necessary. It doesn’t send a signal that you don’t trust them or that you doubt their abilities. Just a quick check-in every so often, especially before milestone deadlines, will put your mind at ease and confirm that everything is on track.
#9. Use Feedback Loops
Delegating goes both ways. Once the project has been completed, ask your employees for feedback on how you did.
Were your instructions clear? Were your deadlines realistic? Did they feel comfortable asking you questions?
Take their feedback seriously and incorporate it into future delegation efforts.
Once you’ve been practicing delegation, you may see you are saving time. Now don’t do something crazy and add more to your plate.
Instead, consider where you are putting your time and energy. I want your goal to be doing fewer things better. Not adding more.