How to delegate effectively?

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Being able to delegate effectively is an essential skill if you want to be a successful manager. A lot of high performing business professionals have trouble letting go. Instead of delegating work to their subordinates they do the work themselves. This leads to work overload and in the long run an ineffective workgroup. Some people have the mindset that delegation is only about getting rid of boring tasks. If you have this mindset you will never be an effective manager. If done correctly, delegation provides authority and assigns responsibility. In this week’s blog post I wanted to share some of the key steps I’ve found useful when it comes to effective delegation.

1. Decide on what to delegate

The first thing you need to decide is what to delegate. The answer to this is – probably more than you think! Effective managers over-delegate constantly. The time you spend doing work that one of your subordinates can do, is time wasted doing something only you could or should do. Instead of looking at what do delegate, it might be easier to start with what not to delegate. You should not delegate your top 2-3 responsibilities. Everything else you probably can and should delegate to your subordinates.

2. Decide who to delegate to

If you have regular one-on-one meetings with your direct reports you probably know their skills, interests, strengths and areas for development. If you aren’t sure you can always ask. “Is there anything I’m currently doing that you think I should let go of?” “Is there anything you believe I should delegate to you?” You shouldn’t feel bad delegating things that you find boring. We all have different skill sets and interests, it’s likely that someone in your team would enjoy the work and welcome the additional responsibility.

3. Delegate

When it comes to what to say when you delegate I recommend a model by Mark Horstman and Mike Auzenne from Manager Tools. If you want to know more about their model you can listen to their podcast called “The art of delegation”. Their model for delegating consists of the following 7 steps:

1. State your need for help – “Jacob, I need your help”.

2. Say why you are asking him/her  – “You have the most experience of video editing in the team”

3. Ask if they are willing to accept – “Would you be willing to take over the editing and publishing of our “how-to” tutorial videos?”

*(Continue if your direct says “yes” or if he or she asks for more details before committing)

4. Go through the details – “Here is what’s involved…

5. State the deadline and quality standards – “The videos need to be published on our site before midnight every Thursday. When they’re published they go out to all our subscribers so they need to be error-free.

6. State when you want updates –  I’d like to review the videos before they go live so publish a draft before 8 am on Wednesdays.

7. Ask if any support is needed – What do you need in order to take on this responsibility?

*There is a reason why it is recommended that you ask for acceptance before you go through all the details. If they say no, you don’t have to waste time going through all the details. If, however, you get a commitment early on, you’ll be more encouraged to go through the details of the work and it’s more likely that you will have their full attention.

4. Review

When you delegate something you are responsible for to one of your subordinates, it’s imperative that you review the work before the deadline. Make sure you leave plenty of time for your subordinate to make appropriate changes. It’s important to keep in mind that your subordinate might not have carried out the work the exact way you would have done it. As long as the end result meets the quality standards you have set, you need to let go and let the subordinate take responsibility for how he or she performs the task (you might actually learn of better ways to accomplish your tasks).

5. Recognize a job well done!

When the work has been completed you need to provide feedback to your subordinate. It’s also important that he or she receives the proper recognition within the organization. If done correctly, delegation provides authority and assigns responsibility, which will help your team members grow and develop. The additional recognition for a job well done can also be a great motivator.

You need to invest time to delegate

One of the biggest challenges with delegation is finding the extra time needed to walk through the details, review and provide feedback. Since it is much quicker to do the job yourself, it’s common to end up doing things that someone else could easily have done for you. An important part of time management is prioritizing and scheduling the time to delegate. If you master this, you will benefit from more time that you can spend on doing things that have a bigger impact.

(If you have difficulties reading this article, you can access the full article in pdf here).