Effective delegation is often mentioned as an important management skill to enable you to free yourself up to do higher-value activities. If you are consumed with day to day tasks, it is more difficult for you to do what you are meant to be doing, like leading your team.
However, thinking about delegation as a way to free yourself up to do more important tasks is a sure way to develop a sense of superiority and a feeling that you are more important than your team. Often you can’t do everything that your team does – even if you had the time to do so. Most great teams are made up of people with various skills, often skills that you don’t have.
I’d like you to stop thinking of delegation as a way to reduce your work, and instead, as a way to improve your team. Effective delegation is not just getting rid of your most hated tasks and sending them to somebody else to do. Effective delegation should be used to improve the functioning of your team and to help them achieve their goals.
Yes, there are secrets to effective delegation. Shhhh! Don’t tell anybody (but you should share this post).
How to delegate effectively
1. Effective delegation involves delegating tasks that your team needs to be better at
Sometimes leaders will shy away from delegating certain tasks because they feel that their team won’t be able to accomplish them to the desired level of quality. The only problem with this approach is that your team will never improve if you continue to protect them.
Often if your team doesn’t do something well enough, the tendency next time will be to say “it’s just quicker if I do it myself”, but really this isn’t doing you any favours. It is showing a lack of trust and confidence in your team, which is likely to demotivate them and to make you have to do even more work!
The trick here is to continue to delegate these tasks, but to provide guidance at the same time. Spending time coaching your team to produce better outcomes is often time well spent. The more you do it, the less you will hopefully need to in the future.
2. Effective delegation means delegating interesting work
When some people achieve leadership positions, they see this as an opportunity to shed the responsibility for more menial tasks on their list and dish them out to their team. Sometimes this is a necessity to enable you to do other work, but if you are consistently delegating boring, menial work to your team, you can be sure that this will eventually result in them becoming disengaged.
Where possible, you should delegate interesting and challenging tasks to your team, even if you really feel like doing them yourself. To do this, you need to understand your team well. Understand what interests them and what their goals and aspirations are. When you get this right, you can expect to see a lot of hard work and motivation from your team, who are developing skills they want and working on tasks that interest them.
To delegate effectively, you need to understand your team’s goals and aspirations.
Delegating full responsibility for interesting and challenging tasks can be a way to get the best out of your team. Eventually, they’ll realise that it is up to them to step up and take on the challenge.
3. Effective delegation gives you time to coach and mentor
An often overlooked part of leadership is the coaching and mentoring aspect of the role. When leaders are busy, this is often one of the first parts of their role that isn’t done.
Why? Because it is hard to see tangible results of coaching and mentoring. But you can be sure that if somebody doesn’t get that TPS Report on their desk, there will be consequences.
Sometimes you might even find that if you delegate work, you will have less than a full day of work to do yourself! Imagine that!
Some people don’t respond well to this. They will try to hoard the work so that they can keep themselves busy and looking important. However, I’d encourage you to spend your new free time on coaching and mentoring activities with your team. This is meant to be part of your day job.
Delegation frees up your time to coach and mentor your team like you should.
4. Effective delegation means delegating the responsibility, not just the task
Delegation become less useful when leaders delegate the task, but none of the responsibility associated with it. This means that your team is simply doing tasks for you, but not actually being held accountable for their delivery. They know you will take what they have done and change it anyway before you send it to your boss.
Getting your team member to own a piece of work can be a great way to motivate them. They aren’t just creating something that you will change later. Sure, you’ll probably review what they’ve done. Ultimately if you can assign full responsibility for a deliverable to your team, they’ll need to make sure it’s right before it goes out. They won’t rely on somebody else to do it for them. This is a great way for your team to become invested in their work. It can make them feel like their role actually matters.
Effective delegation is a key leadership skill. It is often transactional in nature, simply used to distribute work amongst a team. You can improve if you spend time, show trust and understand the motivations of those that work for you.