Decide to Delegate, Plan to Succeed: the Principles Behind the Art of Delegation

the art of delegation

The art of delegation is essential if you own your business, manage a team, or run a household. In short, delegation is part of every aspect in life (except working out—unfortunately one can’t outsource cardio). Managers need to learn to successfully delegate work to employees. If they don’t, major productivity is being lost. According to a survey from SHL, a US psychometric testing company, managers spend around 14% of their time redoing tasks and correcting employees’ mistakes. Talk about a manager’s worst nightmare.

If you effectively implement delegation into your daily work, you will be to dedicate more energy to more complex tasks, give junior employees the opportunity to learn, and build a workplace of trust.

When learning the art of delegation, focus on these 5 principles:

art of delegation

Review actual work tasks

Your job description may include a few of the things you actually do on a day-to-day basis, but take stock of all tasks you actualize during your day. Write down a list of things that you do daily. Pay attention to which tasks must be done by you and you alone. What are your other activities? Do you answer company emails when you don’t necessarily have to? Are you taking notes during a client meeting when it’s more important to converse? Some managers might believe that these tasks should done by them. The important question to ask when reviewing each task and whether it can be delegated, “Am I crucial component to the completion of this task?” If a task does not have to be understood and analyzed by you, delegate it.

Find the right person

Delegation is useless if you’re not shifting a task to the person who can complete it successfully. It would be like delegating estate brokering to a 5 year old, futile and ultimately disastrous. Write down the tasks and/or responsibilities you find you can delegate. Review the abilities of each team member. It’s important that the person you choose can effectively accomplish tasks. It may be tempting to give tasks to the team member that looks less busy or is most junior—don’t. You will be creating a terrible mess in the future—one that you’re responsible for. Know the skills you need will complement your foray into being a better delegator. After you review, you may find that no team member is an exact fit. Now is the time to think about the professional trajectories of team members. Are there team members that have expressed their interested in customer service? Learning SQL? Even if you don’t have the team member to delegate the task right away, you can begin preparing them now to take over later.

Train responsibly

Delegation is a bit like drinking alcohol—it’s only truly fun when you do it responsibly. Training others to do tasks effectively is the greatest way for you save time. Training team members may be a bit of hassle or time-consuming now. But since you’re a strategic, long-term thinker, is is not a chore, it’s an investment to reach your goals.

Make short-term deadlines with context

Tim Ferris, in his New York Times Bestseller, “The 4 Hour Work Week”, told a story of how he hired an assistant to do administrative tasks; he gave the assistant a list of tasks and told him to complete them by the end of the week. The results were sub optimal. The assistant completed the tasks, but did some incorrectly or way too close to the deadline. Ferris’ takeaway: give tasks with short-term deadlines and reveal the bigger picture. Ferris should have explained how these small tasks contribute to a bigger project. Take a note from Ferris and give team members deadlines to check in and update you on their progress. If they’re headed down the wrong path (especially early on in their training or project), this will save them and you frustration. Be sure to share the context of what they’re working. This may give them the freedom to think of better solutions or other options you didn’t think of. It also enables them to stay on track.

Explain “Thank you”

Courtesy shouldn’t be dead in the workplace. Just because someone is getting paid to do tasks is not the same as showing appreciation for the work they do. Give team members a sincere “thank you” during the process. Explain how their tasks helped you accomplish your own goal, which enabled the company to move forward. Depending on your style, do this throughout, at the deadlines, or when the milestone is reached. Think of showing appreciation through a card, a recommendation on LinkedIn, or a gift card to their favorite eatery. It shows that you saw their efforts and were an integral part to a project’s success. Also, they saved you loads of time to focus on important matters to you—which definitely calls for a big “Thank you”, paid or not.

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