Delegating tasks is an indispensable element of a team leader’s responsibilities. Effective delegation is what makes a team function as a well-oiled machine, yet how to successfully do it 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 handle delegation. We’ll also share tips from inspiring business leaders to guide your delegation efforts.
Assign 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. You need to make sure that the individual you select has the set of 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 Caliper Profile test and 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.
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 over 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 cycle of delegation 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
Distributing tasks 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.