As a leader or a manager, learning to delegate can feel like a challenge. Indeed, it can be one of those things that simply becomes an ongoing developmental process—you never stop learning or improving on that skill. While it’s true that delegation is a critical skill, it’s also one that is underutilized in the workplace. There’s no denying it—for many leaders “letting go” can cause serious headaches.
First off, it might not be about thinking that other people can’t do things as well as you. Rather, it could involve wanting to get something done and not wanting to take the time to explain your needs to another person. There are many reasons why high performers struggle with delegation including worrying about a loss of control, wanting to ensure your high standards are always met, office politics, and the experience (or inexperience) level of a direct report. One might even fail to delegate because in reality they enjoy the work. Regardless of the reason, failing to delegate can lead to being less effective.
What Does Delegation Really Mean?
I have found that some initial worry can be ebbed if the definition of “delegate” is actually examined. It means, “Entrusting another person with a task for which the delegator remains ultimately responsible.” No matter if you delegate or not, the buck stops with you. Keeping that in mind, you may actually be able to do more and operate with increased levels of efficiency if you learn to let go. Consider these tips for learning how to delegate:
- Take baby steps. Don’t try to start off by delegating a major project or something that is completely mission critical. Look at your workload and analyze what can be done by someone else while also considering your overall comfort level. Work your way up to delegating larger and crucial tasks.
- Think about skill sets and assess if there is a fit. Look at your direct reports and be honest about what they are good at and where they might need more development. Address their unique abilities, interests, and individual insight, and compare this information to the task at hand. Moreover, just because someone doesn’t have a skill doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t stretch to develop that competency, but try to complement existing skill sets first. This will mean less explaining and instruction for you right off the bat.
- Control your expectations and stay grounded in reality. Remember there is a difference between doing something “wrong” and doing it the way you would have done it. Build confidence in your team by allowing them to put their own unique footprint on the project.
- Resist the urge to “half delegate.” Ask your direct report how often they would like your feedback or how they would prefer to be communicated with. Don’t hand over a project only to micro-manage needlessly—you won’t be lessening your workload and your employee won’t be growing as a professional.
Delegation can ultimately become one of the most important management tools that you use. Doing this in a positive manner can save you time, motivate your employees, and help them develop to the benefit of your business. On a personal level, your workload will be streamlined, you’ll be able to free your time for other activities, you can grow as a leader, and your stress will be reduced. Your direct reports will enjoy new opportunities to grow and generate enhanced skills, as well as be inspired by taking on added responsibilities and solving new problems. It really is a win-win!
I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about the art of delegation and how it can help your business. Visit me online at www.jpkantor.com.