In this blog we look at the actual skills involved in delegating to your team. At first sight, delegation can feel like more hassle than it’s worth. However, by delegating effectively to your team, 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, and other team members are working on meaningful and challenging assignments, you have a recipe for success.
Deciding 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:
- The task should provide an opportunity for growth of another person’s skill.
- Weigh the effort to properly train another person against how often the task will reoccur.
- Delegating certain critical tasks may jeopardize the success of your 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, 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 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 that you have delegated to is still learning. Be patient: if you have chosen the right team member 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 the team.
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. Let them know how much supervision they can expect from you.
Work together to develop a schedule for progress updates, milestones, and other key project points. After the meeting, ask the team member to give you a summary of the important points to make sure they have understood the task. If it is a large task, you may want to create a miniature project summary. This can be a valuable tool for the delegate when they are working on the task.
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 questions or guidance needed as the work progresses.
Monitoring the Results
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 team members 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 delegates come to you with a problem, and then help them explore those solutions and reach a decision.
It is important that you hold team members to the original schedule that you agreed upon. Congratulate them on milestones accomplished and deadlines met. If deadlines are missed, explore why. These investigations often provide valuable lessons learned for both you and the team member. Don’t be afraid to ask for progress reports. Remember, your job is to help the team member stay on track, and to remove any barriers that are impeding their task.
When delegated work is delivered back to you, make sure to set aside enough time to review it thoroughly. 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.
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 team members’ self-confidence and efficiency now and in the future.
Although delegation seems simple enough on paper, its application in real life can be much more difficult! Let’s look at some of the most common delegation issues and how to solve them.
The delegate keeps coming to you with questions.
- Although the team member should feel comfortable coming to you and asking questions, there can come a point where they are relying on you too much.
- One way to reduce the need for your time, and to increase their independence, is to show them where they can find the answers.
- Another approach is to ask them for recommendations when they have a problem. Then, help them explore the possibilities and choose a solution.
- It may also be possible that you have assigned a complicated task to someone who is not prepared for it. If this becomes the case, the best approach is usually to ask a senior person to assist the junior person with the task. (Once again, this helps develop team members and increases their independence.) Try to avoid re-assigning a task unless it’s absolutely necessary.
You hear that another team member is performing the delegated task.
- It’s always best to get your information from the source. Talk to the team member and find out who they are using as a resource and how much of that person’s time is being used. If you feel that too much of that person’s time is being used, suggest alternate resources.
- You may also want to check with the person involved in the task to ensure they don’t feel overwhelmed or taken advantage of.
- In general, when you hear these kinds of rumors, keep a close eye on the situation, and react appropriately.
The end result is not what you expected.
- First, take a moment to evaluate the problem. Is it done incorrectly, or just not done the way you would have done it? (There really is a difference between the two!)
- Explain to the team member what is done incorrectly and how it can be resolved. Take time to find out why the delegate did the task the way they did. Were the original instructions incorrect? Were they unable to find help when they needed it? Did someone else tell them to do it differently? Take careful notes during this discussion. This can provide valuable lessons for you and the delegate.