How to Delegate Better to Achieve More

As an employee, there’re few things as discouraging as working for a micromanager who’s breathing down our neck, suffocating creativity and thinking.  On the other hand, as a leader, we’re likely to wonder at some point or another if we are delegating appropriately and effectively.

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Delegation allows leaders to empower their teams, develop new skills, include new ways of doing things, promote accountability and improve job satisfaction. And when you grow your team’s capability, it frees you up to focus on more strategic, forward looking priorities. 

Without the ability to delegate effectively, it’s unlikely for the person to advance in management to higher positions with bigger responsibility. 

So why are not more managers doing it?  The common excuses I hear are “it’s easier & quicker if I do it myself”, “they can’t do it as well as I can”, “we can’t afford to screw up this one.” While there’re instances where delegation is not appropriate, often, the reluctance to delegate stems from a lack of trust in others to get the job done, unreasonable needs to have control or irrational fear for job security.

The good news - delegation is a skill we can all learn and practice by implementing a process.

A process to help you to: 

1.    Decide WHAT to delegate

Have a prioritization system that ranks the activities in your workgroup on skills required, effort needed, business impact and dependencies outside of your workgroup.  Know your own strengths, and the strengths, competencies and career motivation of your team members.  This will help you to decide what are the tasks or projects to delegate.

2.    Assess WHO to delegate

You may delegate a task to the person with the specific skill required.  Or you may choose to delegate a task as an opportunity develop a new skill in a team member. Assess the readiness of the person for the task in terms of competency and experience to determine the style of delegation.  For example:

  • Directive delegation with specific instructions for staff who are new & inexperienced

  • Delegate by objectives with the desired outcomes clearly outlined for staff with experience

  • Full delegation for staff who is completely experienced & competent

3.    Set clear EXPECTATIONS

No matter which style of delegation, it’s important to be transparent and communicate your expectations upfront.  What are the success measurements, budget, time, the non-negotiables and how you want to be posted?  Don’t tell your staff “you’re fully empowered on how you achieve this goal” and then “correcting” them constantly on how they should be approaching the task instead.  

4.    COACH for development

Often when we delegate, we are stretching a team member out of their comfort zone.  This is a great opportunity to coach them through the task and develop their ability.  GROW coaching model is a great one if you’re looking for an easy-to-apply and effective model to facilitate the dialogue (you can download The Coaching Quick-Start Guide here).

Delegating isn't always easy, and the process isn't clear cut.  It’s an expertise you develop over time by learning from your experiences and making ongoing adjustments for improvement.  And when done well, your staff get greater fulfillment from their job.  You gain higher engagement and commitment from your team.  And you elevate the capability and impact of your workgroup. 

As Steve Jobs wisely said “It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

Jacinta Quah