Let me start with a confession: I’m not a natural delegator. Chalk it up to one too many bad experiences with “group projects” in school, but I find it really hard to trust someone else to handle work that’s important to me. Still, the time comes when even the most reluctant of us has to ask for help.
The Practical Benefits of Delegating
Delegating usually makes the list of skills every great leader should have, and for good reason. In today’s fast-paced business environment, we need to satisfy clients used to instant responses and be able to beat our competitors to the market with innovative ideas. Trying to handle everything on our own is an invitation to burnout.
Delegating, when done effectively, increases overall productivity by tapping the full potential of all team members. The willingness to delegate also demonstrates trust. Showing that trust creates a strong bond among team members and improves morale.
Additionally, delegating increases the effectiveness of teams. It’s a great idea to offer cross-training, and nothing teaches like hands-on experience. By delegating, we can also tap into the expert knowledge and experiences of others. Delegation can also provide an opportunity for team members who might be shy about expressing their ideas in a public forum to share their insights.
An Unexpected Benefit of Delegating
One of the most powerful benefits of delegating isn’t often talked about, however. Delegating offers a powerful reality check. For leaders, it’s often an exercise in humility. It can be easy to convince ourselves that we’re irreplaceable and that no one can do our jobs as well as we can. Hopefully, for both our career advancement prospects and the long-term health of our businesses, that’s not true. We should always be training our successors.
For those we entrust with our responsibilities, the experience can be an eye-opener. Too often, people see a supervisory or management role as a prize. If I were only the boss, they think, I’d have it made. Sharing a portion of the boss’ workload provides powerful proof that leaders don’t have less to do; they have more.
5 Tips for Successful Delegation
In order to reap these benefits, however, we need to be effective delegators. With that in mind, here are five essentials for successful delegation.
Communicate the job requirements and the timeline.
One of the main reasons delegation fails is the lack of clear information about expectations. Let the person taking over the task know what they are expected to deliver as exactly as possible. Provide a clear deadline for completing the task, including milestones, if applicable. If the finished project needs review or approval (for example, a proposal for a client or the slide deck for a presentation), take that into account.
Provide the needed tools and resources.
We also need to ensure when we delegate a task that the person taking on the task has the tools and resources needed to complete it successfully. For example, they might need permissions to access data or use certain applications. If the task requires them to collaborate with others, provide those individuals’ contact information. (An introduction is nice, too.)
Touch base, but don’t micromanage.
It’s a good idea to touch base with the person handling the task as work progresses, especially if it’s their first time attempting the task. That allows an opportunity to clarify instructions or course-correct if needed. Avoid micromanaging, though. Hovering and obsessing over every detail undermines the trust delegation can build and, honestly, defeats the purpose of delegating in the first place.
Be prepared to compromise.
We all have different work styles. When we delegate, we have to be willing to let the person helping us to it their way. As long as the difference in approach doesn’t affect the quality of the final product or services, let it go. Also, we can’t let our vision for a project stop us from being open to a different vision. After all, the new idea or approach might be an improvement on our own!
Delegate, don’t dump.
Be mindful when choosing tasks to delegate. It’s not an opportunity to get rid of the parts of our jobs that we find unpleasant or boring. No one likes being taken advantage of. People who abuse delegation in this way soon find that their requests for help go unanswered.
With these tips in mind, we can harness the power of delegating to create a more positive, productive workplace and create the best outcomes possible for our clients.