“The really expert riders of horses let the horse know immediately who is in control, but then guide the horse with loose reins and seldom use the spurs.”
– Sandra Day O’Connor, former Supreme Court Justice.
When Steve first started as a project manager at a leading digital marketing company, he was quite excited and wanted to prove his competency from day one. He wanted to show his colleagues and the boss that he could do it all, independently, without needing any assistance.
What Steve soon found out was that his old job required him to focus on a single project at a time, but in the new role, he was juggling three to five projects all at once. The transition to a managerial role was not as smooth as he expected it to be.
Steve got stressed out, and his team found him inaccessible, skeptical, and dominating. Steve was too busy handling all projects by himself that he had no time to guide his team. He knew he had to change old ways because they won’t open new doors for him.
Steve quickly realized that he had to let go of some of his responsibilities so that he can concentrate on high-priority tasks. He halted all work he was doing and brought the following crucial changes to his working style:
- Listed all projects on the whiteboard
- Ranked high-priority projects higher on the list
- Ranked low-priority projects lower on the list
- Assigned projects to chosen team members
To Steve’s surprise, he found that his employees expected him to delegate work, something he was not willing to do before. He trusted his team members to keep him updated regarding the projects’ progress and provided guidance when needed.
The great news for Steve was every project was completed on time, with minimal hassles. Delegation of work motivated his team members to work even harder.
They started to approach Steve more and more because they knew that he now trusted them and was willing to delegate projects to employees whom he considered “the right fit” for the job.
Steve’s professional (and personal) life changed for the better as a result of effective delegation. His stress levels were reduced, he had more time for himself, his team members trusted and respected him more, and became an inspiring figure at work.
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Why I Started This Article With Steve’s Struggles With Delegation (and how he conquered them)
“According to a survey from SHL, a US psychometric testing company, managers spend around 14% of their time redoing tasks and correcting employees’ mistakes and this proportion is even higher in high power distance cultures such as Hong Kong (24%) and India (20%).”
You’ve read the story of Steve and it could be that as a manager or leader of your organization, you too find delegating work as something that you are not comfortable at. It can also be that work pressure is getting to you and you have started looking weak and inefficient.
However, Steve quickly realized that he was having too much stuff served on his plate. He divided work and distributed job responsibilities, and results exceeded even his expectations. That’s probably what you need to do as well.
What stops you from getting the same (or better results)? You too can reap the benefits of work delegation as Steve did. All it takes is a strong will, broad vision, and trust in your employees to get the assigned job done.
This article will provide you with vital information related to all aspects of delegation- why managers fail to delegate, its pitfalls, its importance, and strategies to implement to excel in work delegation.
Table of Contents
- What Stops Managers From Delegating
- Pitfalls of Not Delegating Work
- When is The Right Time to Delegate
- How You Can Master The Art Of Delegation
Delegation Matters BIG TIME!
“The first rule of management is delegation. Don’t try and do everything yourself because you can’t.”– Anthea Turner
Irrespective of the size and type of organization you work for, successfully delegating work is one of the most important skills that any professional manager should have. Not only does this allow your team members to showcase their skills, but also helps in alleviating your workload and achieving the right work-life balance.
Delegation is a fundamental leadership skill. You cannot perform all the work falling within your domain by yourself; effective task allocation to individuals or teams is important. Delegating work can have different purposes – work distribution, optimal utilization of resources, reduce bottlenecks, improve engagement, encourage healthy competition, improve and grow skills, and ensure deadlines are met.
Of course, delegating tasks can reduce much of your workload, but it does more than just get stuff off your plate. The most valuable benefit of delegating work is that the people who work for you get an opportunity to learn, develop new skills, and gain knowledge, which makes them ready to take more responsibility in the future.
What Stops Managers From Delegating
“Delegation is not a binary thing. There are shades of grey between a dictatorship and anarchy.” – Jurgen Appelo
While the benefits of delegation are obvious and aplenty, many managers fail to overcome the reluctance to delegate. It can be due to many reasons, and the most common ones are listed below.
A Feeling Of Insecurity
Many managers want to show that they enjoy a senior role in the organizational hierarchy because they deserve it; that they are better than others in what they do. They don’t trust others to do the job as efficiently as they can, and this perception holds them back from delegating. They fear that if they delegate, things will go wrong, and they will ultimately be blamed.
Mistaking Delegation As “Passing Off Work”
Harvey Mackay, the founder of MackayMitchell Envelope Co. says, “ Managers often mistake delegation for passing off work, which prevents them from doing it. As a result, they end up wasting theirs as well as the organization’s valuable time and resources.” Managers perceive delegation as a sign of weakness, which stops them from doing it altogether.
Obsession With Control
Some managers’ ego doesn’t allow them to lose some of their control over their employees by delegating work. They want to feel important, powerful, and in control. By doing all work by themselves, they want to assert their authority over others.
Lack of Time
Managers who do not delegate work are often so busy doing multiple things that they hardly get time to observe and assess their team members’ skills and capabilities. They believe that they can do things faster than others, so they continue to burden themselves with a plethora of tasks.
Avoiding Other Responsibilities
Managers may not delegate to show their boss that they already are overburdened with work, because they want to avoid some other responsibilities that are more difficult or complex, require training, or call for greater responsibility and accountability. Reasons may be different, but the only way to keep them off is by showing that they don’t have time to handle them.
Pitfalls of Not Delegating Work
“The inability to delegate is one of the biggest problems I see with managers at all levels.” – Eli Broad
For whatever reason managers don’t delegate work, it’s the organization and people who work for it (including the manager) who have to bear the cost of failure to delegate. Let’s take a look at how the inability to delegate work poses problems to each one of them.
How Managers Face Problems
- Longer working hours because you are doing all the work by yourself
- Won’t get adequate time to focus on other important managerial responsibilities
- Work stress or possible burnout
- Shows you’re not good at managing workers and distributing work among them
- May lose the respect of your team because they believe you don’t trust them to perform certain tasks
How Employees Suffer
- Don’t get to hone their skills and capabilities
- Might feel demoralized due to lack of trust shown in them by their managers
- Might consider switching jobs due to lack of learning and opportunities to grow
- Won’t be developing work networks and relationships
How Organizations Pay The Price
- Will have less skilled employees
- Will have a limited number of capable people in case of sickness or staff turnover
- Reduced productivity due to underutilized employees
- Less satisfied workforce means a higher employee turnover rate
- Less innovation and creativity
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When is The Right Time to Delegate
As an experienced and skilled manager, you should know when it’s time to delegate. However, many managers get confused about the right timing to delegate work because they aren’t sure which tasks they should do themselves and which ones should be delegated.
Remember, delegation is not taking a shovel and heaving tasks at your team. You’ll need to follow a strategic approach to be effective at delegation.
Jenny Blake, career and business strategist, recommends conducting an audit of your tasks to determine which of your tasks should be delegated.
- Tiny: As the term suggests, tiny or small tasks are those that take a small amount of time to complete, but these take a significant chunk of your time as they add up over time.
Generally, these things can be done by your subordinates. For example, your subordinate can pay electricity bills, schedule meetings, book tickets for business trips, etc.
- Tedious: Tedious tasks are tiresome, mindless tasks. They require little skills and can be easily delegated. For example, creating spreadsheets, data entry, manual reporting, etc.
- Time-consuming: Time-consuming tasks can be broken down into subtasks and delegated to others. If you are performing such tasks consistently and end up spending considerable time on them, you can delegate portions of such tasks to others.
- Teachable: Teachable tasks are those that you can easily delegate to others by providing little coaching so they can complete them and you can concentrate on high-priority tasks.
- Terrible-at: Are there tasks that you are terrible at? It could be that you are not good at guest blogging and take a couple of weeks to compose one when a professional writer can easily do that in a day or two. It’s better to delegate that task to someone who is an expert at it and does the job quickly and efficiently.
- Time-sensitive: For managers, it would be better if they can manage all tasks involved in a time-sensitive project, but when you find it difficult to complete all of them on your own, you can delegate some tasks to members of your team to save time.
How You Can Master The Art Of Delegation
Okay, now that you have read about why delegation is important, why some managers are not good at it, its pitfalls, and how to know it’s time to let go of some of your tasks, let’s now move to the crux of the matter i.e. how to be good at the successful and effective delegation of work.
As mentioned earlier in the article, delegation is more than just distributing work to other team members to alleviate some of your workloads. Rather, it’s about giving the right work to the right people.
Delegating tasks the right way helps your team members understand your expectations and gets more things done quickly in less time.
The question is how do you go about doing this? I have compiled a list of incredibly effective ways successful managers have been using to delegate tasks better, with excellent results to show.
You can also take cues from these tips and I’m sure you would be happy and content with the result. Read on to know more about it.
1. Explain Why You’re Delegating
This is the first step of the process of delegating work, and you should not miss it because your team members want to know why you’re doing this. You don’t want to create an impression on your employees that you’re using your seniority to your advantage by passing off work that you don’t want to do.
Schedule a team meeting and explain to chosen members why delegating the work is important and how their skills can help to get the work done more efficiently. Also, tell them how it is an opportunity for them to develop their skills and prepare themselves for leadership roles in the future.
2. Determine Who You’re Going To Delegate To
A good leader observes his team members closely and understands their strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. If the task requires a collective, group effort, then don’t delegate it to someone who likes to work alone. Delegating such a task to someone who advocates collaborating would be the best decision.
Prepare a list of tasks you’re looking to delegate, and then see which member of the team can perform which task in the most efficient way possible. Another way of delegating tasks (while building trust within the team) to the right people is by letting your team members self-select the tasks they are most interested to perform.
3. Provide Training And Guidance
“A good training rule of thumb is ‘I do, we do, you do (i.e. watch me do this, then let’s do it together, now you try)”
Does the person or group need training before taking responsibility? Once you’ve explained why delegation matters and chosen the best people to get the job done, the next step is to provide them with the right tools and necessary learning so that they can quickly get on with the job.
Coaching your team members on handling jobs helps them familiarize themselves with the nature of the work and how to perform it in the best way possible. Without micromanaging, managers can assure their team members of support and accessibility whenever they need it.
4. Define The Authority Level
Delegating tasks without empowering team members to take decisions is like asking them to take part in the battle without arms and ammunition! Don’t make this mistake because it hampers the pace of work and more time is consumed on tasks by both the employee and the manager.
Encourage ownership among team members by giving them the authority to take decisions, ask questions, and take necessary steps to perform the task in hand. This helps to build trust and confidence among employees that their leader has faith in their skills and decision-making capabilities.
5. Don’t REVERSE Delegate
Now’s not the right time to take a backward step!
Even managers who effectively delegate are still overworked. Allowing your team members to push back work onto you does not show your planning and preparation failure in a good light. Don’t let your team reverse delegate tasks to you.
Rather, take stalemate as an opportunity to train and guide. Circle back and see if they have the right resources and skills to be successful at work. Instead of spending extra time on performing re-delegated tasks, you better use it for teaching and equipping your team members for the next occurrence of the assigned task.
“Even “Super You” needs help and support. There is no shame in asking for assistance. Push aside the pride and show respect for the talent others can bring to the table.
And, remember that there is no such thing as single-handed success: when you include and acknowledge all those in your corner, you propel yourself, your teammates, and your supporters to greater heights.”
6. Keep Communication Lines Open
Communication is the key to good team collaboration. To ensure accountability from your team members, managers need to ensure that the lines of communication are open at all times. You can use different communication modes, like video conferencing software, phone calls, group chat, texting, and emails, that your team members can use to communicate.
You can let your team know about the timings when you’re available to communicate. In case it’s urgent, you can ask them to reach out to you through telephone calls. The last thing you would want is unprecedented surprises at the last minute.
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7. Monitor Progress Without Micromanaging
Once you’ve delegated work, step back and let your team do the job. Stop peeking over their shoulders all the time. However, you need to monitor progress at regular intervals just to make sure the project is on the right track. Using kanban boards, you can visualize work moving through multiple stages. Using a reporting tool you can keep an eye on everything!
If things are going as expected, don’t forget to recognize and appreciate your team’s efforts to keep them motivated. Praising them also helps them understand what type of work keeps them happy. When you notice your team’s efforts, your team would like to work with you again on future projects.
Managers have so much to do in a limited time. Work pressure is immense and their shoulders are burdened with a plethora of responsibilities. That’s where delegating work can prove useful to managers, employees, and the organization.
Delegation takes some projects and tasks off of the managers’ shoulders and gives them a chance for employees to showcase their skills and competency. However, delegation does not end with assigning work to others.
As a manager, you have to keep track of who’s doing what, when, how much time is being spent on performing tasks, and if the project is progressing in the right direction at the right pace. How are you supposed to check on what your team is doing without micromanaging?
Using a feature-rich team collaboration and project management software like ProofHub can be one such idea. It can help you keep track of all things from a single location and ensure that team members, managers, and clients are on the same page for better collaboration.
So, are you ready to delegate?