Just Exactly How Should Managers Go About Delegating Tasks?

Managers need to learn the art of delegating
Managers need to learn the art of delegating
Image Credit: Steven Lilley

As a manager, there never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. I’m pretty sure that we all wish that we could clone ourselves so that we would have more hands to help with all of the work that needs to be done. It turns out that cloning does not yet exist; however, if you can learn how to delegate effectively then you just might be able to find the help that you need in order to get all of your work done.

The Power Of Delegation

When you are a manager, one of the manager skills that you are going to need to use is delegation. This is going to be a major key to maximizing your productivity and keeping yourself sane during tight deadlines or large workloads. The problem is, many managers don’t actually know how to delegate effectively because they don’t have any manager training on how to do it, or aren’t willing to do it unless they absolutely have to. It turns out that delegating tasks is a skill that, like any skill, can be learned and improved on over time. So just exactly what does a manager have to do in order to become good at delegating?

Master The Ability To Let Go

The biggest problem most managers face is the inability to let go of their own work. Sometimes they feel so dedicated to completing their own work that they cannot let other people help. Other times, they fear that nobody else has the skills or abilities necessary to execute their work effectively. Whatever the case may be, your first priority needs to be to learn how to let go. One way to go about doing this is to start small, delegating only the smallest tasks, and gradually work your way up. As you get to know your team better you can improve the trust among you and your co-workers. You can take small steps and know that eventually you will have to let go of your work if you want your team to be successful.

It’s All About Priorities

As part of your letting-go process, start developing a priority system for tasks. Of course, this system will vary on the basis of your expertise, your industry, and the types of tasks that you usually handle. You need to create at least four categories, according to the degree of effort a task requires and the degree of skill. The highest-skilled category that you create should contain tasks that you keep on your own plate, while those in the lower-skilled categories can be assigned to others. The degree of effort required should tell you which tasks are more important to delegate – for example, giving someone else responsibility for a high-effort, low-skill task will save you lots of time.

Understand Who You Are Delegating Things To

As a manager, you’ll have to learn the subtleties of your team members. You should know each individual’s strengths and weaknesses. You should know his or her current, and potential, range of skills. When delegating, you need to take a look at your team and assign tasks to whoever has the greatest number of relevant skills for that task. This may seems like an obvious choice, but too many leaders delegate to whoever has the lightest workload or is the most convenient.

Delegation Always Requires Instructions

Even if a task process seems obvious to you, make sure to include instructions with each task you delegate. If you have specific preferences for how the assignment will be carried out, make sure that you include that information. If you have a strict deadline or milestones you need to hit, be clear about them when you delegate the task. Including details and straightforward instructions from the get-go will allow you to avoid most communication gaps and will allow your tasks to be executed effectively. It’s a proactive strategy that both you and your team members will always appreciate.

Delegation May Require New Skills To Be Learned

Lacking someone on your team with the ability to execute a certain task on your to-do list doesn’t mean that you can’t delegate the work. Most skills can be learned – some more easily than others. You should not be afraid to teach as a part of the delegation process – consider this to be a form of team building. Though the assignment of your first few tasks will probably take more time than it will save you (since you’ll need to train your chosen team member), consider it to be an investment. By transferring those skills now, you’ll be opening the door to assigning all similar tasks to that individual in the future. This will ultimately save more time than you spent teaching the skills.

Delegating Does Not Mean Walking Away

Once you have delegated a task, trust your teammate to execute it on his or her own terms. This will allow the teammate to tackle the work the way he or she feels is best. However, you should not be afraid to occasionally step in and verify that the task is moving along as planned. A good example of this would be if you made an assignment a week ago that’s due tomorrow, trust that your employee is on top of things, but send a quick verification email to make sure they haven’t hit any snags.

Delegating Means Using Feedback Loops

Feedback is the most important part of your delegation process, and it works both ways. If your team members have done well with a task you assigned, let them know by publicly thanking them and offering genuine praise. If they’ve fallen short, don’t be afraid to give them some constructive criticism in order to motivate them in the future. On the other hand, invite your team members to share their thoughts on how you’re delegating – it’s a critical chance for you to determine whether you’re providing enough information, or whether you’re assigning the right tasks to the right people.

What All Of This Means For You

As managers, we often find ourselves in a situation where we have too much to do and not enough time to get it done. When this happens, what we need to be able to do is to reach out to the members of our team and get them to help us out. This process, delegating, is key to our ability to accomplish all of the tasks that have been assigned to us. However, in order to delegate properly, we need to understand how to go about doing it.

When we delegate, we have to master the ability to let go and allow members of our team to do the work that we have assigned to them. We have to prioritize what tasks we need to do and delegate the lower priority ones. We need to make sure that we delegate things to team members who will be able to do them. When we delegate things, we also have to provide team members with instructions on how to do what we are asking them to do. New skills may need to be taught to team members so that they can do what we have delegated to them. You need to stay in touch with the people that you delegate things to in order to make sure that they are doing it correctly. Feedback loops are a critical tool for making sure that the work is being done correctly.

Delegating isn’t always easy, and the process isn’t always clear cut, but the sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll develop the expertise to do it effectively. Realize that your process will never be perfect, but learn from your experiences and make ongoing adjustments for improvement.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: How many tasks do you think that you can delegate to one team member?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So can we talk about email? It’s a key part of our life and it seems like we spend a great deal of time each day using our manager skills to read emails that have been sent to us and composing emails to send to others. However, email has always had a problem. It turns out that the written word does a very poor job of conveying how the sender is feeling when they are sending it. When we talk to people we can read their body language and facial expressions – not so when we are reading their emails. It turns out that there is a way around this problem – emojis.