How to Delegate Like a Pro with These 4 Steps

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

Delegation allows leaders to empower their teams, develop new skills, introduce new ways of doing things, promote accountability, and improve job satisfaction. 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 aren't 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”, or “we can’t afford to screw up this one”. While there’re instances where delegation is not appropriate, the reluctance to delegate often stems from a lack of trust in others to get the job done, an unreasonable need to have control, or an irrational fear for job security.

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

1. Decide what to delegate

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

2. Assess who to delegate to

You might delegate a task to the person with the specific skill that's required or you might 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 you use, it’s important to be transparent and communicate your expectations upfront. What are the success measurements (e.g. budget, time) and what are the non-negotiables? How you want to be posted and updated? Don’t tell your staff “you’re fully in control of 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.

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. When done well, your staff will get greater fulfillment from their job, you will gain higher engagement and commitment from your team, and you will 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.”

About Jacinta Quah

An Executive Coach, Keynote Speaker and Well-being Advocate, Jacinta helps leaders move successfully from fatigue and burnout, to peak productivity and energy, maximizing their performance and potential.  

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