Training & Development

Quint’s column: Embrace delegation

Quint Studer.

Do you know how to delegate effectively?

Some people may see delegation as simple – handing off an assignment to another person. But it’s not merely a task, it’s a leadership skill. This skill doesn’t just help at work, either. They can help in a community, a church and with family.

Delegation is moving action to the best place in the organization.

When it’s done well, delegation frees up the manager to focus on other items, it builds depth in the organization and it improves employee engagement because the person feels trusted and good about the task they’ve been handed.

When it’s done poorly? It causes confusion, can demotivate the person and in the end, it takes more management time, not less.

Much like micromanagement, delegation can prove difficult for some on either side – whether you’re delegating or receiving an assignment.

That move leads to achieving the desired results. The biggest hurdle may surprise you: It’s not the person who receives the task, it’s the person who must let go. Why?

  • Leaders feel those that work for them are already busy and they are afraid to overwhelm the employee with more so they hold on to items that need to be delegated.
  • In the past when they have delegated the employee did not do a good job.
  • A manager may think it is easier to just do it themselves for by the time they teach the person how to do the task they could have done it themselves.
  • The manager can be afraid or threatened. Will delegating tasks make them less valuable to the company?

The key to successful delegation lies with the person who is doing the delegating, not the receiver. Still, the person receiving the task must also be responsible to assure success by providing feedback, asking questions and sharing ways that the task can be done more efficiently than the leader prescribed.

Here are some tips to delegate effectively and successfully.

— Make a list of your current tasks, bury your ego, and without thinking of who can handle them, identify tasks that can be done by someone else. The key is to realize that delegation will add time at first, not take it away. However, there are too many good things that come from it not to do it. In the long run, you will gain time.

— Pick a few tasks and jot down the steps you take in completing the task. This is helpful in creating standard operating procedures and will help the person receiving the task.

— Is it time to let go of that one thing the company has been depending on only you to do? As companies grow from their startup days, sometimes leadership hangs on to primary duties that can now be delegated. For example, as a supervisor you normally open the store but perhaps now is the time to examine whether you want whoever works the morning shift to open it. You have been the main purchasing person for a while now, but maybe now you want to delegate that to one other person.

— Connect to the why. You don’t want it to appear to the employee you are dumping something on them with no thought behind your action. Explain why you are delegating and why you chose them. Also, don’t forget: Explain why is it important to the organization. Connect the dots to the reason, including your trust and investment in them.

— Share the end game. What does success look like? This means what does right look like in the task and how the delegation will provide the time for you to accomplish other tasks which will lead to specific results. This takes away any thoughts that a leader is just “dumping” more work on an employee.

— Cover what they may need. Make sure they’re prepared for the new duties. That means training, resources, barriers removed, etc.

— Create an action plan with timelines and milestones.

— Schedule specific times for feedback and follow up. Encourage the employee not to wait for these times – if they have a question or need something, let’s chat about it.

— If it’s a significant change, make sure it’s something that is discussed with co-workers. This step is often missed. If not explained correctly, coworkers may not understand and worse yet may not be supportive.

— Give employees a chance. Don’t assume they are too busy. Most employees are excited to learn and gain new experience, so long as the process outlined above is followed. You will never know the upside of an employee if they are not given the chance.

Delegation is not a task, it is an acquired skill that takes time and experience. Perhaps now is the time to learn to let go to make your workplace stronger overall.