How (and Why) to Delegate Effectively
Delegation is an essential skill, both in leadership and everyday life. We all need to reach out periodically and ask for help. But it’s not always easy to do, for both social and psychological reasons. Let’s discuss the benefits of effective delegation, and try to remove some of the mental roadblocks that prevent us from asking for help.
Delegation is the act of redirecting tasks and initiatives to other team members. You might delegate work to distribute responsibility more evenly, or because the task or initiative is more relevant to another team member’s priorities, skills or interests. At Emergent, we see delegation as an extension of trust. It shows your team that you believe in their commitment and capabilities. Delegation is a great way of cooperatively achieving your team’s vision.
Among the many reasons people give for not delegating, these are the ones I hear most often:
- “I don’t have the time to teach someone the task or hand it off properly,” or a similar excuse, “It will take too much time to explain”
- “I can do the task best myself. I know what needs to get done (and how I like it).”
- “My teammates already have too much on their plate for me to add another item.”
- “I enjoy being the go-to person and I feel important by contributing to my organization.”
There’s a bit of truth in each of these reasons, but taken together they represent a harmful mindset. So, let’s reframe. Here are some reasons you should delegate:
- Delegating tasks to your team leaves time for you to grow.
- Empowering others helps people feel included, connected, successful and happy in their jobs.
- Developing others through delegation helps your team grow and feel more connected.
- We all need to help each other be more than we thought ourselves capable of. Pushing each other is how we all learn.
- We all want someone to believe in us and believe we can contribute more. Our best mentors see skills and abilities in us that we don’t see in ourselves.
You may have noticed that the reasons to avoid delegating are concerned with short-term problems (deadlines, convenience, workload) while those that promote delegation focus instead on long-term growth and development. This isn’t an accident. Delegation might seem challenging in the beginning, but its benefits over time are much more compelling.
Here are four tips to promote effective delegation:
- Engage the person you are delegating to on their ideas for the project. Remember to stay open to new and creative ways to get the job done.
- Define when you need the task done. You might set an earlier deadline than you’d give yourself, so you have time to review the work. Don’t assume the person you are delegating to knows how quickly you want it done. Be clear with your expectations.
- After delegating the task, have the individual repeat the plan for its accomplishment back to you. This helps raise important questions and ensures you’re both on the same page. This summary works well when you don’t have the time for a longer discussion of the project.
- Last but most important, check-in on progress more often than you think is necessary. Time moves quickly and changes pop up often, so you might need to readjust the details.
We often recommend a regular “status meeting” to our coaching clients interested in delegation. Have the individual who is working on the delegated task prepare the agenda and review with you, the leader, what they have on their plate. This also gives you the opportunity to discuss any changes in timing or expectations and to offer support if necessary.
Also, keep in mind that no matter how effective and trustworthy a person is, they might need more support or more frequent check-ins when they are delegated a new or different task. This is a good thing–it means they’re growing in confidence and competence.
How do you and your team delegate tasks? Do you have tips for effective delegation? We would love to hear from you about how you’ve used delegation to develop your team
Emergent partners with teams and leaders to raise their development, impact, and performance. For more information on our coaching and team development please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.