Any structured entity needs delegation to be successful. Sports teams have captains and coaches. Retail stores have managers and floor workers. Even the government has communication tiers in place to ensure only the top-priority issues land on the President’s desk.
Consider the example of a sports team. The coach may stand on the sideline the entire game, but their role may be the most important of all. Without the coach to call the plays and strategize a game plan, even the most gifted athletes will find themselves struggling to compete.
This concept applies to your ability to delegate with your team at work. You lead those individuals for a reason, and through successful delegation, you can leave your greatest legacy.
But how do you delegate work effectively and be a successful leader? What is the power of delegation?
What Is Delegation?
The first step in successful delegation is understanding exactly what delegation entails. In short, delegation happens when someone transfers responsibility for a task from one person to another. As the person delegating, you’re the one calling the shots. If a job needs to be done, you assign it to someone. If a new person should take over a task that someone else is struggling with, you can make that call, too. You can even delegate a task from yourself to another person.
That’s right — you can ease your workload by delegating tasks to other people. Reaching company goals by doing everything yourself often results in negative outcomes, like burnout and failure. By delegating — or transferring — duties to your supporting team, you can reach your shared company goals more easily and efficiently.
Why Is It Important for Leaders to Delegate Effectively?
So, why is delegation important in leadership? One of the first reasons to consider is that of time. As much as you may like to handle every task that comes your way, it’s impossible to do it all yourself. You only have 24 hours in a day, and you may only spend a third of that time on work-related tasks. You need to delegate some of your tasks to complete them all on time and at a high level of quality.
Another reason delegation is important is that your employees need support. If you’re the coach of a soccer team and you also try to play as the center forward and goalie, your team isn’t going to win many games. The coach’s role on the sidelines ensures the success of the team because they have an eagle-eye perspective of all tasks — as a leader, it’s important to delegate tasks so you can effectively keep track of the big picture and long-term goals.
From an organizational perspective, leaders need to delegate tasks so they can take advantage of employees’ individual skill sets. Most workplaces have individuals who specialize in certain tasks, even if most employees technically have the same job description. As a leader, you can get to know your team and assign tasks that fit each employee’s strengths. This delegation tactic will make your workplace more efficient and help your team members see the value in their roles.
Here are some other factors that prove the importance of delegation:
- Trust: Delegating tasks shows your team that you trust them. When you give out tasks, the people taking those tasks from you will know that you trust them to do a good job.
- Career advancement: Delegating tasks gives other workers the chance to develop new skills. These experiences can help them on the road toward career advancement.
- Job fulfillment: Showing your team that you trust them and giving them new experiences can help them have more feelings of job fulfillment and work-related satisfaction.
Why Is Delegation a Challenge for Some People?
Despite all the benefits showing the importance of delegation, some people still find the concept challenging. You may think that everyone would love the opportunity to delegate tasks to others, but the opposite is true for some people.
Passionate people who care a lot about what they do might also tend to hold on to lower-value tasks that could otherwise go to someone else. While some leaders with this tendency might call themselves ‘control-freaks,’ there are actually many reasons they avoid delegating tasks to others:
- They feel bossy: Many people want their team members to like them at the expense of delegation. They feel like delegating tasks makes them bossy, which in turn makes people dislike them. The truth is that many employees’ least favorite managers are the ones who hardly delegate tasks, leaving the team unsure of what they should do next.
- They think they can do it better: It’s easy to feel like only you can do a certain task or that you can do it better than anyone else. In some cases, it may be true that you’re the best at certain things — but as a leader, your time and energy must go toward other activities. In these instances, it’s time to let someone else learn the task so they can become the new “best” at it. If you start delegating those tasks, you may be surprised to discover another team member excels at them.
- They want to keep control: Doing everything yourself may have you feeling like you’re in total control. But how long will it be before you are unable to carry that weight any longer? It could be hard for some people to realize, but delegation does not mean you’re losing control. It means you’re trusting someone else to do something within your sphere of influence.
- They’re afraid of losing time: In the heat of the moment, it may feel like the best way to save time is to do every task that comes your way. If a project deadline looms, many leaders might assume it’s quicker to do the project themselves rather than take time to train another team member. However, even if the project gets done in time, the leader will have to put off other tasks, which can have a larger impact on the efficiency of the team.
Knowing When to Delegate
By now, you understand the importance of delegating and realize that, for some people, delegating is easier said than done. If you’re unsure of which areas of your work you should delegate to others, take heart. You can focus on several tasks as your starting point for delegation.
Study the list below and think about which of these tasks you might be able to delegate to someone else:
- Tedious tasks: Mindless, tedious tasks are the ones that demand little attention or skill to complete. For example, scheduling meetings and coordinating schedules is a tedious process that might require a lot of back and forth communication, but you can delegate this task to another team member so you can focus on more important business.
- Small tasks: Small tasks may only take a few minutes to complete, but they often compile into a long list that could take all day or week. Often, your assistant may be able to complete these smaller tasks, which can include booking transportation, making copies or cleaning up your email inbox.
- Teachable tasks: A prime example of a delegatable task is one you can easily teach. These are tasks that someone else can accomplish without needing high levels of expertise or formal education. Delegate the tasks that are mounting up on your schedule that someone else can do if you show them how.
- Time-consuming tasks: Some tasks demand a lot of your time and keep you from getting to other important matters. View these tasks as ones you can break up into smaller chunks, delegating those chunks to other members of your team. For example, instead of coordinating with every client yourself, you might forward their messages for other team members to respond to.
- Time-sensitive tasks: Time-sensitive tasks are usually of high importance, but you should still be willing to delegate some of them. Completing these tasks on time is more important than doing them all yourself. Delegate some of your time-sensitive tasks to others so you can meet your deadlines without burning yourself out.
- Difficult tasks: Everyone’s better at some tasks than others. We all have our strengths, so make your area of weakness an opportunity to tap into someone else’s strengths. Acknowledge the areas where you struggle and delegate those tasks to others who can do them more efficiently. You’ll then be able to focus more effort on those tasks where you excel.
How to Harness the Power of Delegation
Delegation is more than simply passing off a task to someone else. Finesse, character and good leadership are also involved. In other words, you must remember that the workers you’re delegating tasks to are people with feelings and aspirations of their own.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to delegate — if you want the best results, that is. Here are some tips to help you harness the true power of delegation.
1. Choose the Right Person for the Task
Successful delegation starts with selecting the right person for the job. Good leaders know the preferences, weaknesses and strengths of the people they lead. For instance, if a task requires a great deal of teamwork, you will want to select someone who has shown a willingness and desire to work in a collaborative role.
One great way to find the right person for a task is to ask. Sit down with your team and reveal the duties you are looking to delegate. Let them self-select the tasks they have an interest in taking from you. If someone wants to take on a new task, the chances are higher that they will be successful in that task compared to someone who has no choice in the matter.
2. Explain Your Reasons and Expectations for Delegating
Your team needs to know why you’re delegating tasks. Otherwise, they may assume your goal is to do less work and put more work onto their shoulders. When selecting someone to delegate to, you should tell them the exact reasons you chose them for the job. Let them know how their taking on this task will help the entire team operate better and that you trust their abilities.
Besides explaining your reasons, you’ll also need to clearly lay out your expectations. Do you expect there to be a learning curve for the task? Do you need to see specific results in a given period? Will this new duty drastically change the selected individual’s workflow or pay? Set your expectations up front to increase the likelihood of a smooth transition.
3. Give Clear Instructions and Training
Often, successful delegation hinges on a successful training period. For any task you delegate, you must ensure the person taking the job knows how to do it successfully and efficiently. Give verbal or written instructions and even show the team member how to do the task before handing it over to them. Give them the opportunity to ask questions and be willing to explain things a second — or third — time if you have to.
You should also create goals or milestones for the team member to reach, as this will help measure their progression. Also, be sure to avoid micromanaging. Let the person to whom you’re delegating handle things in their own way. They may have a different way of approaching problems and tasks. As long as you get the results you’re looking for, you can count the delegation as a success.
4. Delegate Authority as Well as Responsibility
You may recall a time in your own life when someone delegated to you, but you felt that you lacked the authority to make simple decisions regarding the task you received. If you delegate a task to someone without empowering them to make certain decisions, they could spend more time contacting you and asking questions than completing the task itself.
Be sure to delegate authority with the new tasks you’re assigning to your team. This will allow them to make judgment calls and take ownership of their new role. Giving authority also ensures your phone stays a little quieter throughout the day, helping you stay focused on your own to-do list instead of constantly answering questions about the jobs you delegated.
5. Provide Feedback and Show Your Thankfulness
The delegation process is incomplete without following up with your team members. Check on them periodically and ask how their new tasks are going. See how they’re feeling and ask them if they have any questions. You can also give them updates on how you perceive their performance, discussing areas of improvement and where they have been successful.
And above all, say “thank you.” Thank your team members for taking on new tasks so you could better handle your own responsibilities and be a better leader. It’s because of their hard work and willingness that you were able to delegate to them in the first place.
Become an Effective Delegator With Dame Leadership
Delegating is part of being a successful leader. If you want to advance on your leadership journey, then Dame Leadership is here to help. Explore our online or in-person coaching services to see how our sessions can help you achieve your goals and grow your skills as a leader. You can also sign up for our Evolution Leadership Conference where you will find new motivation, support and purpose in your pursuit of being a better leader and leaving your greatest legacy.
Contact us online today for more information on how to take the next step.