We’re dishing out six helpful strategies so that you can delegate like a pro and get more done!
Let’s face it—delegation can be tough.
As much as we’d like to move some stress and obligations off of our own plates, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to pass that responsibility off to someone else.
But, what exactly makes effective delegation such a challenge?
Well, there are a couple of factors at play here.
First, there’s our own desire to white-knuckle our own tasks and responsibilities. We all have the tendency to be control freaks—some of us to higher degrees than others. Having someone else handle our work for us feels risky. As time-consuming as it might be, it’s reassuring to do everything ourselves. It gives us the peace of mind that tasks are completed exactly the way we like them.
Secondly, despite the fact that delegation is designed to make your own life easier, it feels difficult at times. So much comes second-nature to you—which means accurately articulating what needs to be done (and how!) is a hurdle for most of us.
But, here’s the thing: While delegating might make you grit your teeth or clench your fists, it’s a crucial skill for not only being a solid manager but also growing your business.
In fact, Gallup reports that CEOs with high levels of Delegator Talent generated 33% greater revenue in the year 2013 than CEOs with low or limited levels of that same talent.
Delegate Like a Pro: 6 Key Tips to Move Some Work Off Your Plate
Put simply, if you want to grow and succeed without tearing your own hair out, you need to know how to delegate—and you need to know how to do it well.
So, what do you need to know to be the most effective delegator around? Let’s dig into six strategies you can use to take some of the stress out of assigning work to other people.
1. Figure out which tasks you’re comfortable delegating.
One of the biggest challenges in delegating is figuring out exactly what you can have other people handle for you.
It’s natural for your first reaction to be, “Nothing! All of my work is too important to pass off to other people!”
I get that—and I feel that same way about a lot of my work. I don’t want someone else managing my inbox, because I like to be the one to have that personal contact with my clients. I don’t want another person doing any writing work, because that’s my own key skill.
But, even if your gut reaction is to turn up your nose at the idea of delegating, I’m confident that there are at least a couple of things that don’t need to be on your own to-do list—and there are a few methods you can test out to identify these tasks.
One place I like to start is by asking myself: What is one thing I’m currently doing, but I don’t think I’m doing really well?
There are probably a few areas where you don’t necessarily have the right expertise to be handling those tasks yourself.
For example, after asking myself this question, I ended up passing over all of my graphic design work (things like social media templates, images for blog posts, digital downloads, etc.) to a professional graphic designer. She does a far better job with these things than I ever could, and it takes her way less time.
Still struggling to think of things that you could have somebody else handle?
An Eisenhower Matrix (also known as a priorities matrix) is another great way to identify tasks that don’t absolutely need to be taken care of by you.
Using this matrix, you categorize your tasks into the following sections:
- Urgent and Important
- Urgent and Not Important
- Not Urgent and Important
- Not Urgent and Not Important
The assignments that fall into the categories of “Urgent and Not Important” and “Not Urgent and Not Important” are things that could easily be delegated to other people—because there’s not much potential fallout involved in having someone else handle them.
Regardless of which method you end up using, there’s one more important thing to remember when you’re identifying what you can delegate: You need to clearly define the task.
Don’t hand over ambiguous assignments like, “Improve our blog.” Get specific. State that you need that person to create one blog post per week at 800 words about topics related to productivity.
The more clear details you can give, the more empowered that person will be to do a solid job with the assignment (more on this a little later!).
2. Determine who you’re comfortable delegating to.
You’re armed and ready with some tasks that you feel like you could easily delegate. Now, there’s another big question you need to answer: Who do you give them to?
Figuring out who to delegate to is equally as important as figuring out what to delegate.
The key to success here is to play to strengths. You don’t want to pass tasks off to people who are only willing to handle them—they should excel at handling them.
For example, you probably aren’t going to feel confident in asking that person on your team who hates spreadsheets to oversee and manage that critical monthly report. They aren’t strong in that area, which means you’ll always feel uneasy about the work they’re doing.
Instead, you need to be familiar with your team’s key strengths.
That person who loves communicating with clients and consistently does so in a professional and polished way? They could be the perfect fit to take over sending the monthly client newsletter.
That person who geeks out over data? They’d be great at compiling your monthly traffic numbers.
Get intimately familiar with where people excel (ask them straight out of you need to!). That way, you’ll find the best people for various jobs—which gives you some much-needed peace of mind.
3. Empower people with information.
Remember before when we talked about the importance of clearly defining a task? That’s an important point—one that’s worth expanding on with a little more detail and direction.
Delegation falls flat when people aren’t given the information they need to succeed. All they know is what task needs to get done—and not the preferred process for doing so or why that work matters in the first place.
In order to effectively delegate, make it your goal to give that person all of the details they’ll need. Starting with the clearly defined task is only a launching point. You should also explicitly state:
- Why that task matters (where does it fit in the larger picture?)
- The existing process for accomplishing it (while still giving room for improvement, of course!)
- Any other resources (contact information, templates, etc.) that could help that person get that job done
Pulling this information together does involve a little bit of upfront elbow grease. But, it’s well worth it to make that person’s job easier and boost your own confidence in delegating!
4. Understand how others like to receive feedback.
You know that your leadership style and your approach to team management can’t be the same across the board—it needs to be tailored to each employee’s communication and working style.
The same applies when you’re delegating. One employee might prefer frequent feedback during their first time tackling an assignment, while another might want the freedom to get quite a bit accomplished before you chime in with your input.
You should maintain engagement levels sufficient for you to deliver the agreed-upon mix of support and accountability,
-explains Jesse Sostrin in an article for Harvard Business Review,-
However, there are risks when the mix is not right: Too involved, and you could consciously or inadvertently micromanage those around you; too hands-off, and you could miss the critical moments where a supportive comment or vital piece of feedback would be essential.
How can you attempt to strike that balance?
When you’re delegating a new task to someone, kick things off with a brief meeting. During this sit-down, you can explain the task and all of the other necessary details we touched on above.
This is also the perfect opportunity to talk openly with that employee about how much involvement they’d like from you as they’re getting up to speed. Having this candid conversation will allow you to adequately track progress and offer feedback, without being way too hands-off or a pesky burden to that employee.
5. Resist the urge to micromanage.
Have you heard that old saying about there being more than one way to skin a cat? While it’s a disturbing visual, the gist of the message holds true—there are numerous different ways to approach the same task.
That lesson is easy to forget when you’re not all that comfortable with delegating. You’ve grown used to handling a project in a certain way, and seeing someone do it differently sends your nerves into overdrive.
There’s nothing wrong with providing help and guidance when an employee is getting familiar with a task—particularly if they’ve requested that you do so.
However, if you’re planning on getting your own hands dirty and dictating how every step of the process should be handled, that’s a pretty good sign that it’s not a task you should be delegating.
You’re too invested and unable to relinquish any control, which means you aren’t willing to let go of that task. It’s time to return to the first tip to find something that’s better suited for someone else’s plate.
6. Show appreciation.
This final tip is one that’s forgotten all too often. In some ways, I understand why. You’re the boss. You provide instructions, and you shouldn’t have to thank people for following them.
But, consider this: A whopping 40% of employees believe that employee recognition just isn’t a priority at their company. Even further, 66% of employees claim that they would leave a job if they didn’t feel adequately appreciated.
Needless to say, a little bit of gratitude goes a long way.
Remember, that person is taking work off of your plate. They’re freeing up more time for you, and that’s worthy of your appreciation. So, when you’re handing over a task to someone else, don’t neglect to offer a genuine, “Thanks so much for taking this on!”
It involves almost no effort, but can make a really big difference in the attitude of that employee (and, as a result, the quality of their work!).
Learn to Delegate and Get More Done
Delegation can be tough—even the best leaders struggle with letting go of the reins from time to time. But, learning to relinquish some control and rely on others means great things for your team and your own level of productivity.
Put these six key tips to work, and you’ll empower others to take over tasks—with as little stress as possible for the both of you.