Delegation is one of the top three people-management challenges for business owners and managers. The other top challenges are hiring the right people and managing poor performance. All three require us to step outside our comfort zone.
Why is delegating so challenging? How can we do it better?
Most things you’ve achieved in your business career have involved some element of control, be it control over money, your environment, or yourself.
Eventually your career reaches a point where to achieve more you have to let go and hand over at least some control to other people. No wonder this is a bit frightening! Instead of feeling a sense of relief, often you are instead feeling quite anxious and uncertain.
How do successful delegators achieve so much? They excel at getting things done through others because they know how to do five things, and — given time and patience — you can do them too.
1. Know your staff
You are comfortable doing certain tasks yourself because you have a deep understanding of what you can and can’t do, what challenges you’re willing to take on and what support you might need. Make it your goal to find out these things about your staff to make delegation easier.
When you know more about their capabilities, task preferences, goals and limitations, it will help you to trust them to get the work done. You may also avoid some potential pitfalls in assigning work because you’ll be more likely to achieve a good fit between the person and the task.
2. Be clear about why
You know the reason for the task — and for passing it on to someone else. Make sure they also understand your intentions when you ask them to do something.
3. Be clear on outcomes — the what and when
What result are you expecting and when? How will they know when they’ve done what’s required?
4. Don’t try to control the how
Micromanaging is not delegation. If you have enough confidence in someone to delegate a task to them, then take the next step and trust them to get it done.
Their methods may not be identical to yours, but if they reach the desired outcome while adhering to company quality standards and policies, does that matter?
Instead of looking over their shoulder, you can relax and get on with whatever it was that you were going to do now you’ve delegated that task. Who knows, they might also find a better way to get it done.
5. Stay approachable and available
The biggest delegation ‘fails’ happen when a manager dumps work on a team member but is too busy to explain, answer questions or monitor progress. It’s the fastest way to ensure you won’t get the outcome you expected.
Distance is a difficult thing to navigate when delegating, especially in the early days, but aiming to be consistent in your approach will help you and be less confusing for your team.
Effective delegation is a skill based on a set of practices you can learn and expand. The tips above apply whether you are delegating work to your staff, colleagues, contractors or freelancers.
Making the effort to delegate well is worth it.