“You can delegate authority, but you cannot delegate responsibility.” – Byron Dorgan
If you work on your own, there’s only so much you can get done, no matter how hard you work. One of the most common ways of overcoming this limitation is to learn how to delegate your work to your team members. If you do this well, you can quickly build a strong and successful team of people.
At first sight, delegation can feel like more hassle than it’s worth. However, by delegating effectively, you can hugely expand the amount of work that you can deliver. When you arrange the workload so that you are working on the tasks that have the highest priority for you, and other people are working on meaningful and challenging assignments, you have a recipe for success.
Remember, to delegate effectively, choose the right tasks to delegate, identify the right team members to delegate to, and delegate in the right way.
When to Delegate
Delegation allows you to make the best use of your time and skills, and it helps other people in the team grow and develop to reach their full potential in the organization. Delegation is a win-win situation for all involved, but only when done correctly. Keep these criteria in mind when deciding if a task should be delegated to your team:
- The task should provide an opportunity for growth of the team member’s skills.
- Weigh the effort to properly train the team member against how often the task will reoccur.
- Delegating certain critical tasks may jeopardize the success of the team’s project.
- Management tasks, such as performance reviews, and tasks specifically assigned to you should not be delegated.
To Whom Should You Delegate?
Once you have decided to delegate a task to a team member, think about the possible candidates for accepting the task. Things to think about include:
- What experience, knowledge, skills, and attitude does the team member already have?
- What training or assistance might they need?
- Do you have the time and resources to provide any training needed?
- What is the team member’s preferred work style? Do they do well on their own or do they require more support and motivation? How independent are they?
- What does he or she want from his or her job?
- What are his or her long-term goals and interest, and how do these align with the work proposed?
- What is the current workload of this this team member? Does the person have time to take on more work?
- Will you delegating this task require reshuffling of other responsibilities and workloads?
When you first start to delegate to someone, you may notice that he or she takes longer than you do to complete tasks. This is because you are an expert in the field and the person you have delegated to is still learning. Be patient: if you have chosen the right person to delegate to, and you are delegating correctly, you will find that he or she quickly becomes competent and reliable. Also, try to delegate to the lowest possible organizational level. The people who are closest to the work are best suited for the task because they have the most intimate knowledge of the detail of everyday work. This also increases workplace efficiency, and helps to develop people.
How Should You Delegate?
Delegation doesn’t have to be all or nothing. There are several different levels of delegation, each with different levels of delegate independence and supervision.
- Delegate initiates action, and then reports periodically.
- Delegate acts, and the reports immediately.
- Delegate recommends what should be done, and then acts.
- Delegate asks what to do.
- Delegate waits to be told what to do.
People often move throughout these spheres during the delegation process. Make sure you match the amount of responsibility with the amount of authority. Understand that you can delegate some responsibility, but you can’t delegate away ultimate accountability.
Now, once you have worked through the above steps, make sure you brief your team member appropriately. Take time to explain why they were chosen for the job, what’s expected from them during the project, the goals you have for the project, all timelines and deadlines, and the resources on which they can draw. Work together to develop a schedule for progress updates, milestones, and other key project points.
You will want to make sure that the team member knows that you want to know if any problems occur, and that you are available for any questions or guidance needed as the work progresses.
We all know that as team leaders, we shouldn’t micro-manage. However, this doesn’t mean we must abdicate control altogether. In delegating effectively, we have to find the difficult balance between giving enough space for people to use their abilities, while still monitoring and supporting closely enough to ensure that the job is done correctly and effectively. One way to encourage growth is to ask for recommended solutions when team members come to you with a problem, and then help them explore those solutions and reach a decision.
The Importance of Full Acceptance
Set aside enough time to thoroughly review any delegated work delivered to you. If possible, only accept good quality, fully complete work. If you accept work that you are not satisfied with, your team member does not learn to do the job properly. Worse than this, you accept a new project that you will probably need to complete yourself. Not only does this overload you, it means that you don’t have the time to do your own job properly.
Of course, when good work is returned to you, make sure to both recognize and reward the effort. As a team leader, you should get in the practice of complimenting members of your team every time you are impressed by what they have done. This effort on your part will go a long way toward building the team members’ self-confidence and efficiency now and in the future.