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Delegation is a fundamental element of a successful organization. It can expand your capacity as a manager. It improves your productivity and increases the success rate of your team. Not to mention, it can motivate your team members, elevate their strengths and boost their confidence!
That doesn’t mean that delegating effectively is easy. We can help! For new managers, we know this may be your first position where you’re able to delegate. You’re unaware of where to start, what to do and common pitfalls to avoid. If you’re a seasoned manager who’s tried delegation in the past but the process failed or frustrated you – you’re in the right spot. We’re going to share with you 7 tips to help you become a more successful delegator. At the end of this blog, you’ll have 7 tangible steps to help you delegate confidently and efficiently as a team leader.
Now, before we dig in, this is what a world without proper delegation looks like. Let us know if it sounds familiar:
Signs of Delegation Gone Wrong:
- You delegate too much: You assign too many (or all) the necessary tasks to others. You don’t take their workloads or schedules into consideration. (P.S. This is not delegation. This is being an ineffective manager).
- You delegate too little: You hold onto tasks for dear life out of fear that someone’s going to mess things up. You give your team the minimal, least-challenging tasks just so they’ll “have something to do.” Consequently, you’re increasingly buried by operational issues that others on staff could handle with competence and ease.
- You delegate the (wrong) tasks to the (wrong) people: You don’t spend time getting to know the strengths and weaknesses of your teams. You end up assigning tasks blindly and/or to the wrong people.
- You delegate without providing the proper training and support: You hand off tasks without spending much time explaining, modeling, or training on how to do things the right way. Then, you get upset when you receive negative results.
- You delegate too late: By the time you realize you need help with the project, it’s too late. Schedules are packed, workloads are full, deadlines are looming and you’re stuck trying to figure out how you’re going to get everything done.
We know it’s not easy “relinquishing power” to someone else. Often times, when we delegate improperly, we run into those dreadful pitfalls, causing discontentment, frustration, and burnout. These discouraging moments can make us second guess implementing the process at all. We’ve all been there, trust us. The reality is, effective delegation takes practice. And if you follow these steps, you’ll see that it’s a powerful tool to produce better work and cultivate a happier staff.
To make sure you’re doing things the right way, here are 7 elements to successful delegation.
7 Elements to Successful Delegation
1. Choose the Right Person
To mitigate setbacks or disappointment, be sure the delegate has adequate skills, background, and operational information to execute the tasks successfully. It’s important that you are comfortable with the delegate’s anticipated performance. Think about the projects this person has taken on in the past. Ask yourself, “Has this person successfully demonstrated the potential to take on this new task?”. If your answer is yes, you’re on the right track.
Determining Who to Assign Tasks To
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to choose a delegate who has done everything right, 100% of the time (does that person even exist?). Instead, we recommend Inc’s rule of thumb for delegation. They suggest, “if the person is able to do it at least 70 percent as well as the original owner of the task, they should delegate it.”
Address Your Hestitencies to Delegate Head On
It’s equally important to acknowledge that the performance or product may differ from what you yourself would produce. However, if you anticipate having to undo or redo that person’s work, there are a few things you should consider. If you’re feeling a little hesitant about assigning a task to a delegate, ask yourself:
- Is it a matter of work style? If so, provide a general project template as a guide. But, leave room for innovation in case a better way to complete the task pops up.
- Is it a matter of skill? If so, provide extra training (which we’ll get into later).
- Is it a matter of competency? If so, you may need to pick someone else.
- And lastly, is it a matter of ego and not truly wanting to delegate? If so, revisit the pitfalls and come into the light!
Ill-managed delegation can destroy trust and create resentment. It undermines your future ability to find willing delegates. So, it’s best to start with people in whom you’re confident. If you have a small team, delegation can be tricky. Depending on the tasks, they may have to remain on your plate until you can 1- find the time to properly train your team, 2- find another way to outsource the tasks or 3- hire a supporting team member.
2. Explain the “Why” of the Assignment
It’s always tempting when delegating a task to skip over the “Why” behind the project and dive straight into the “What” of the project. This is a huge mistake. It is important to begin by explaining the bigger picture: the purpose of the project and how it plays a role, even a small one, in the bigger scheme of things that allows your organization to serve its mission. Delegates need to know why the work they are being asked to do matters.
Your delegate should be able to understand and explain the rationale behind the project you are asking them to execute. They should also know how the project impacts the organization internally (as a team) and externally (as an outward-facing organization impacting your community).
Explaining the overall purpose of the work is especially important with administrative tasks in the education sector. People who work in education are doing so because they care deeply about the organization’s mission. When you delegate monotonous, purely-administrative work, sometimes that work can seem boring and appear as if it has nothing to do with the organization’s mission. Many times, delegates in this situation perform subpar work, simply because they were not invested in the work. Taking the time to share how this work connects with your organization’s mission can connect them more deeply to the project at hand, breathe new life into their day, and result in a higher-quality work product.
3. Lay Out the Desired Deliverables
When delegating to your team, make sure people understand what they are going to do and the outcome you want.
After everyone fully comprehends their tasks, role and the overall objective, let your team know your anticipated deliverables and outcomes. Your team should know exactly what’s being asked of them.
You need to be crystal clear regarding the deliverable. What do you want the end deliverable to look like? What format should it be in? If possible, provide examples of what the deliverable should look like. This will give them a better grasp of what to do. And if they find themselves going in another direction, they can reference your example to get back on track.
Also, be sure to communicate any systems they must use when completing the project. How do you want the project delivered to you? Are there other teammates needed to complete this project? If so, what is the nature of that relationship, and what role do they play in finishing the task?
Plans of Action
All aspects of the plan should be clearly mapped out, but they don’t necessarily need to be mapped out by the delegator. When working with inexperienced, junior-level employees, developing a distinct approach to completing the project can help them get started on the right foot. If he or she finds better methods of execution, that’s great! But at the very least, give them a proven techniques to start with. If you’re working with more seasoned delegates, this system isn’t really necessary. It may come across as micromanaging. However, still make yourself available to answer questions and pop in from time to time to make sure the plan is being executed efficiently.
Similarly, you need to have clear and realistic expectations. Acknowledge that your team may have questions about how they’re going to achieve the results. They may have apprehensions around how the new project will play into their current workload, capacity or skill set. Understand, since you are handing things off to other people, there may be a little resistance. Allow people to voice their thoughts and concerns about the new tasks.
4. Map Out a Clear Timeline
Once everyone knows what they are doing, why they’re doing it and what’s expected of them, it’s time to map out when things are due.
Map out the deadlines you’re working with. Communicate which ones are set in stone and which ones are tentative. You want everyone on the same page to mitigate confusion and frustration. More likely than not, some deadlines will overlap with important existing projects on their plate. If this new delegated work conflicts with existing responsibilities and timelines, work with the delegate (and other colleagues as necessary) to help your delegate to prioritize so that all work can be completed with excellence according to an agreed-upon schedule.
Using project management tools like Asana, Basecamp or even Google Calendar can help you keep track of important tasks and their due dates. Stress the importance of communicating often and early – if things are off track and a deadline is at risk, raise that risk as far in advance as possible (as soon as you recognize the risk exists).
As a manager, it’s also important to factor in training time into your delegation process before you talk to your team. Training can include projects as well as digital resources that support and shorten your team’s learning process. Often, leaders want to cut corners and have their teams jump right into the assignment to “save” the leader’s time and energy. However, lack of training and proper resources almost always ends up hurting you in the long run.
Consider the complexity of the project. Then, discern how much coaching is needed. Developing a training process beforehand will allow you to better understand what you’re asking of your team. By breaking down what’s necessary to complete each task, you will discover inefficiencies and steps where things might get a little sticky. The better you train, the better the process and results!
5. Define Measures of Success
Define the measures of success. Give your delegates clear, concise ways to indicate when they’re progressing and regressing. Benchmarks should be readily available so everyone can stay on track.
Take the time to celebrate when you see that the delegation process is working well. On the flip side, slow down and evaluate the efficiency of the process if things are not progressing as you intended. The whole point of delegation is to make executing your tasks easier, not harder.
To increase your probability of success, it’s important to instill confidence in your delegates. Remind them they were chosen based on their strengths. Affirm your belief in their capabilities and let them know they’ll be supported before, during and after the project.
6. Establishing a Solid Support Structure
When it comes to delegation, establishing a solid support system can set the foundation for a productive, smooth, and successful project. Onboard your teammates by showing them how to do the task.
This is most important with more junior employees or when someone is learning how to do something for the first time. It is not always necessary to go through this approach. If you are delegating to someone you think should be able to do the work – no problem! But if we’re talking about someone you have never delegated to before, then it’s good to have an earlier check-in than usual. This allows you to see the initial work and make sure you are on track.
We like to take this approach, especially with junior-level employees or new teammates:
1- I do, you watch: You show your delegate(s) how to do each task, explaining the what and the why of every step.
2 – We do together: You run through the process again, this time allowing your delegate(s) to explain the what and the why of each step. Encourage your delegate(s) to ask clarifying questions as you walk through things together. Getting a firm grasp on the assignment is the key to a successful handoff. Provide specific, actionable feedback throughout the process.
3 – You do, I watch: Have your delegate(s) walk you through the process as if they’re teaching someone else how to do it. Encourage them to verbally reiterate each step; it helps with retaining memory. Note, during this phase, you’re just here to watch. Refrain from jumping in and doing it yourself. Provide specific, actionable feedback afterwards.
4 – You do: After your delegate(s) has had ample time to practice with you, it’s time to let them work independently. This is the stage where you revise, advise and adjust before starting on the real thing. Assign a mini project first. This will give you an idea of what remaining questions they have and surface misunderstandings about the process. It will also give you a glimpse of what the end product will look like.
Let your team know who to touch base with during the delegation process. Be patient and understanding. If questions arise, there should be point people they can talk with to voice their concerns and troubleshoot.
This is imperative! If your team does not feel supported throughout the process, they will be less likely to buy into the next project that requires their assistance. Ensuring they have the support they need is vital to their success.
Also, note that just because you delegate the tasks doesn’t mean you’re completely removed from it. Establish scheduled check-ins for evaluation, monitoring, intervention and feedback as needed.
7. Making Resources Available
Depending on the intricacies of the project, you may want to have extra resources available that your team can use for future reference. This can help them work more independently, answer their common questions with immediacy and increase the accuracy of their work.
Outline the resources that will be available to them as you transition your tasks to your team members. If you anticipate a big learning curve, provide examples of your work in addition to your hands-on training. Share your notes with apps like Evernote or conduct brief video tutorials with Loom and save it for future reference.
Tools: Delegation Support Tools
We hope you found this breakdown helpful. Now that you understand how to delegate successfully, you’re going to want to stay tuned for the next part of this series. We’ll take a deeper dive into tools that help you identify when to delegate, what to delegate and how to identify ideal delegates.
Speaking of delegation, if you need help finding a new role in education – delegate some of the work to us! We’d love to assist you! On the flip side, if you’re hiring for a non-teaching role in education, delegate some of your tasks this way! We want to help you find diverse, talented, passionate professionals who are eager to work for organizations like yours! If you’re a JobSeeker, complete our confidential WorkMonger JobSeeker profile. And if you’re an employer, let us know how we can help you with your hiring efforts. We can’t wait to help you find the job match or candidate match you’ve been waiting for!
Until next time: Stand out. Do Good!