Assigning tasks to a team is an indispensable element of a leader’s responsibilities. Effective delegation in management is what makes a team function as a well-oiled machine. However, knowing how to delegate responsibility successfully remains a tough nut to crack for many managers.
Some managers try to do everything on their own while others delegate too much with too little direction. Neither course is good for the manager or the team.
In this post we’ll offer some practical ways to effectively handle delegation. We’ll also share a real-life delegation example as well as tips from inspiring business leaders to help you improve your delegation skills.
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How to assign tasks to team members:
- Delegate tasks based on skills and experience. Identify tasks that can be transferred to other team members and consider the best person to take them on.
- Provide thorough direction and context. Give your assignee all the information, instructions, and documents they will need to complete the task.
- Foster personal responsibility and ownership. Give the team member the full authority to take on the task so that they feel engaged to complete it successfully.
- Set aside time for feedback and gratitude. It’s important to establish a culture of feedback on the tasks you delegate. Let your employees know how they are doing on the task.
Delegate tasks based on skills 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 select has the skills needed to tackle the task, and that it’s not too easy for them.
It’s useful to take a look at how people get into the flow state when you’re in the process of assessing the person to delegate to. There should be a moderate level of difficulty but people should still feel in control and not get overwhelmed.
You can see where the flow state lies in this pie chart:
Another important part of the selection is to determine 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.
Provide thorough direction and context
Delivering the task to the team member is not enough. You need to prepare and give them all the instructions and documents they might need in the process.
For instance, when Dave, the founder of Hubstaff, needs help piecing together a growth post, he creates a thorough outline and complementary video 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. You can even communicate the implications of missing the deadline and how it will affect other team members.
Make it easy for people to do their work
This might seem like an obvious one, but it’s overlooked by many people who want to delegate tasks. You need to make the work easy, all the details readily available, and collaboration as smooth as possible.
Sending over an email thread, or a few separate messages, and asking them to sort through it can be off-putting and overwhelming. For some, it’s no problem, but making a habit or organizing details before assigning the task is key.
This is where online project management tools come in. Instead of emails, use detailed tasks and checklists, tagging the project assignee. The person can see the history of the task, what the purpose and process is, and who else is involved. All files and communication are attached to the project, easily digestible and in one view.
One tool that does all of this for you is Hubstaff Tasks. It’s an Agile project management app with Kanban boards so you can create and assign tasks easily. It also offers other Agile features, such as workflows, weekly sprints, and automated daily standups. The tool is free for teams of up to 5, so it’s worth a try.
What’s best about Hubstaff Tasks is the fact that you can easily see what your team is up to in any given week with the sprint function, as well as which tasks are taking longer than expected. As a manager and a leader, this gives you a better insight into the people you have available to outsource to, making task delegation much easier.
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.
Fostering 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. Upon reaching each of them, they can check if the performance matches the expectations that have been outlined.
You can also try out delegation methods such as 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.
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 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.
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 allows all of you to 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.