Effectively assigning tasks to team members is a crucial part of a leader’s responsibilities. Savvy delegation is what makes a manager’s team run like a well-oiled machine.
However, knowing how to delegate responsibility successfully remains a tough nut to crack for many managers. Giving up control can feel hard, but it’s ultimately necessary for growth.
Some managers try to do everything on their own, while others delegate too much with no clear direction. Neither course is good for the manager or the team.
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What’s the importance of delegation in management?
Delegation exists so you don’t have to waste hours on tasks that someone else can do better. Regardless of your skills or experience, trying to do everything by yourself will burn you out in no time.
For instance, if you’re a marketing officer, then your focus should be on connecting with clients. Don’t force learning how to build an app into your schedule when you can assign that to someone more qualified and who, in the end, will provide more value than you can.
Successful delegation is being able to utilize the individual talents of everyone in your team. When done right, your productivity will increase, the workflow will be smoother, and task management will be way less troublesome.
The process of delegation
In theory, delegating duties and responsibilities is simple to understand. But in practice, it can be difficult to master. Here are three delegation process steps that can help you get it done more easily.
1. Identify the tasks you want to delegate
The first step to delegating effectively is deciding which tasks and responsibilities you want to assign to someone else on your team. Take a look at the work you currently have on your plate, and ask yourself: which of these is totally necessary for me to do, and which could be done better by someone else?
Aside from that, you should also consider time constraints. Do you really have time to do all these tasks? Be totally honest about your current workload. Will you potentially miss crucial deadlines if you do them by yourself? The purpose of delegation is to maintain a smooth workflow and prevent yourself from being overworked, so keep these in mind before you even think about what to delegate.
2. Decide who you’ll delegate the work to
One of the keys to effective delegation is understanding the strengths of everyone in your team. After you’ve prepared a list of tasks you’re going to delegate, the next thing to do is find the right people to assign them to.
Start by looking at their skill sets and their schedules. For example, if you need to make modifications to several blog posts, then it would make sense to delegate to someone on the blog team, or at least to someone on the marketing team.
Once you’ve sorted everything out and finalized your delegation plans, it’s time to start assigning tasks to your team.
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3. Delegate with trust and fairness
Now, you need to start assigning tasks to your team. And when you do, don’t forget to include your full trust in their capability to take each task on. There’s no point in delegating if you’re intending to check on them every half an hour to see if they’re doing it the way you want it to. Micromanagement won’t do either of you any good.
From the beginning, make your expectations crystal clear and let them know the details of what you’d consider a high-quality output from them. If they fail to meet your expectations, use this as an opportunity to re-align on what outcome you were hoping to get out of the task and make sure they understand that you’re counting on them to do better next time. It’s your responsibility as a manager to make your team feel trusted, supported, and that you believe in them.
How to delegate tasks — techniques
Now that you know how the process of delegation goes, here are some tips you can follow to help improve your delegation skills.
1. Delegate tasks based on skill and experience
Once you’ve identified tasks that can be transferred to other members of your team, you need to consider who the best person is to take them on. Make sure that the individual you pick has the skills needed to tackle the task, and that it’s not too easy for them.
You want your team to experience a moderate level of difficulty. Ideally, they should be challenged while still being in control of the work, but not so much that they’re overwhelmed and unable to concentrate.
Another important part of the selection process is to keep in mind the values and character traits a person has. Businesses of all sizes, from startups to Fortune 100 companies, find the Gallup StrengthsFinder test useful for this.
2. Provide thorough direction and context
Just handing over a task to your team members isn’t enough. You need to prepare and give them all the instructions and documents they might need to really set them up for success.
For example, if you need a post about a particular topic that has to pull information from other content to be comprehensive, you should create a thorough outline to give the writer direction. This cuts down on the back-and-forth with the writer after the draft is delivered.
Take the time and develop the discipline to map out exactly what you’re asking for. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure — Michelle Randall
For more important tasks, give the person context in addition to the practical aspects. Explain how the task fits within a larger project and mission. Give it a sense of higher-level purpose. You can even communicate the implications of missing the deadline and how it will affect other team members.
3. Foster personal responsibility and ownership
It’s not enough to assign a task to a team member. You need to give people full authority over the work so they feel engaged to complete it successfully. You also have to make sure that when you transfer a task, the assigned person has taken complete responsibility for it.
Building a culture of accountability in your team starts with including team members in objective setting meetings. You can work together to decide what the milestones for a task are. After reaching each of them, they can check if the performance matches the expectations that were outlined. Keeping everyone’s understanding of the task aligned from start to finish is key.
You can also try out delegation methods like the “decision tree” used by Fierce Inc.
Fierce assigns a task based on different levels of responsibility: root, trunk, branch, or leaf. On each level, team members have a certain amount of ownership, which is clearly defined. This way it’s clear when to consult a manager and when to handle decisions independently.
4. Set aside time for feedback and gratitude
Going through the delegation process requires you to give and receive feedback so that you foster an open atmosphere in the team. Set aside dedicated feedback time to give people a chance to discuss the difficulties they encounter and their suggestions for future delegation.
Feedback is the most important part of the delegation process, and it works both ways — Jayson DeMers
You can use this opportunity to show your gratitude for their commitment and efforts. This will make them feel appreciated and boost their motivation. Or you can offer constructive criticism paired with encouragement to help them tackle their shortcomings.
As a manager, you can employ the feedback loop to learn about the areas you’re gaining experience in as a delegator, or where you need to improve.
How to monitor delegated tasks
Once you’ve delegated work to the right people, you need to make sure that they’re actually working on them. As mentioned above, constantly asking for updates isn’t a good idea. This will be a waste of your time, and could affect your team’s capacity to perform effectively.
Instead, use Hubstaff, a time tracking solution with all the features you need to monitor your team’s activity while giving them the freedom to focus on their own work in their own way. You can see how long they have worked, the tasks they’ve accomplished, and how active they were while they were doing all of those tasks. It takes just one click to start tracking.
Hubstaff will automatically generate timesheets based on the time tracked by your team. You can review these to see who’s most productive, and who might need help at work. This allows you to delegate work to the right people easier and save time on checking for task updates.
Master delegation in your team
Delegating responsibility efficiently lets you stay on top of your own work while helping team members gain new skills and get comfortable taking ownership of tasks.
Delegation is also a learning experience for managers and team members alike, as it lets all of you develop trust and get used to sharing feedback and mutual appreciation.
Do you have any tips for successful delegation that we didn’t mention here? Let us know in the comments.
This post was originally published in December 2016. It was updated by the Hubstaff Blog Team in October 2019.