Effective leaders learn to delegate because transferring work to others frees up time for them to work on tasks that only they can do or that they can do best. Delegation is not merely a way to lighten your own workload; it also serves to increase the motivation and competence of those to whom you have delegated.
One of our jobs as leaders is to help people grow, and delegation assists us in doing that. Great leaders recognize people as an organization’s most valuable resource, and they can elicit exceptional performance from their employees in part by sharing tasks.
There are many different components to delegation beyond simply assigning a task to someone else. What follows is a detailed, step-by-step guide to important things to consider when delegating.
Step 1 – Identify the task
Clarify what tasks should be delegated. What has been on your list a long time, what is causing you frustration or boredom, and what are you doing that is of lower importance or better done by someone at a lower pay grade?
Step 2 – Choose who to delegate the task to
Consider who the best person is to do this task. Is there someone who may be even better and faster than you are at doing it? Who has the skill set already? If there is no one, who has the aptitude to learn the skills needed to complete the task? Has the person you chose established that they are capable, trustworthy, and can follow through? Do they have the time for the task?
Step 3 – Confirm level of interest
Highly motivated employees will usually be excited that they have been selected for a task, and feel empowered by you asking them. If they are not interested, or only express lukewarm interest, it may be an indicator of a larger issue related to workload, aptitude, or what brings them satisfaction. Make sure they are committed and on board with the project.
Step 4 – Clearly define the task
Begin with the end in mind and clearly articulate desired results. When clarifying task specifics, be sure to focus on the final result, not the how to part. It is often helpful to offer general suggestions on how they might proceed along with appropriate training, but be clear that they are in charge of how they get to the desired outcome. When people are unclear about a desired outcome, they will often underperform rather than risk making a mistake.
Step 5 – Clarify level of responsibility, authority, and accountability
Name the level of responsibility, authority, and accountability you are giving them. Clearly set out these levels at the beginning of the process. What are the reasons that they should come to you for feedback and approval? This will vary from person to person and from task to task. Ask and assess if they are comfortable with the level of responsibility, authority, and level of resourcing.
Step 6 – Establish timeframes and completion date
Clearly agree upon a task completion date and when certain phases of the task should be completed. Consider having this in written format to avoid misinterpretation or confusion. Be clear about what completion looks like, and that both of you are in agreement to these timeframes. Be sure to discuss how much time each day or week is appropriate to give to the task. Consider how the time needed for this new task will impact their other work.
Step 7 – Express confidence
Let employees know that you believe in them and their ability to do this task. People typically live up to – or down to – the expectations we place upon them. One of the most powerful ways to build confidence in your employees is to express your positive expectations of them. Using phrases like “I know that with dedication and hard work you will be able to do this.” while simple and brief, can be inspiring to the person hearing these words.
Step 8 – Monitor progress and give feedback
Follow through on the timeframes agreed upon in Step 6. Establish a process of receiving periodic updates. This helps to hold the employee accountable. Stay close enough to be available for questions and to ensure everything goes well, but not so close that you are actually the one making the decisions. Be sure to avoid micro-managing the tasks as this undermines the authority you have handed over.
Step 9 – Give credit
Whatever you do, don’t take the credit yourself. When the task is completed give credit where credit is due. Giving credit for a job well done inspires loyalty and continued commitment to new tasks. When possible give public praise and recognition for a job well done.
Step 10 – Review
Once you’ve delegated a task and it has been completed, pay attention to the results and learn from mistakes. Change the way you approach things, and tweak your approach as needed. Once someone has succeeded at one task, consider if they are ready for a more significant one.
Delegation requires us to identify the right tasks to turn over to the right people while giving them the resources and authority to complete the task. Effective delegation saves time, increases capacity, and develops and motivates employees.
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