How to give work to people without worrying about it
Written by Professional Academy Management and Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights
Have you ever tried delegating but were frustrated because it took too long or wasn’t done correctly? Delegation is a key business skill, but there is an art to doing it successfully. The good news is, it’s an art we can all master.
Why we fear delegation
Have you ever delegated a task to someone and it’s not gone to plan? Maybe the task was completed too late or it didn’t meet the quality standards you had in mind.
Experiences like that can move you into the mindset of feeling that you can never trust another person to do your tasks as quickly or as well as yourself. The problem with this approach is that you never feel content. You always have a to-do list longer than you can realistically work through and you spend time on tasks that are not developing your skill set. Oh and you will never be as productive as the people who do delegate.
1) Only I know how to do it – when you think you are the best and that you are the only person who knows how to do something you hold yourself back. But most people can do what you do. Be comfortable with that feeling. If there are very niche things that only you can do then focus on those and delegate the other things.
2) I hate doing this and so will everyone else – never assume. We all have different likes and dislikes. When you play to people’s strengths you give them purpose and motivation. Teams are there to help you – not to be you.
3) I can do it faster – this is a short-term outlook. Yes, you might be able to write a report more quickly than someone else, but if you train them today then you won’t need to do the task in the future – freeing you up to spend time on tasks where you provide real value.
What is delegation?
Delegation is all about maximising productivity. You can’t do everything yourself – you need other people to help you reach your goals. By utilising other people’s best skills you can get tasks completed efficiently and every team member complements each other. In fact, you are well on your way to becoming a high performing team.
Think about it like this: payroll is a huge expense in any organisation but it’s also the most valuable resource. If payroll costs you £50,000 per month and people aren’t working effectively then you’re throwing away £50,000 every month. Take ownership of your own role and make sure you provide value for money. Or if you are a manager make sure that you and your team provide value for money.
How to delegate effectively
Here are three steps you should take when delegating a task to someone. Obviously, the scale of the task will dictate the level of time you spend on each step. However, they are a useful template to use to avoid any pitfalls:
1) Vision – the biggest culprit for delegation disaster is not being clear on what needs to be achieved and why. Grab a pen and jot down answers to these questions: What is the vision? Why are we doing this? What are the risks if we don’t do this or we don’t do it well? What are the milestones? What is the deadline? Join up your notes to tell a story.
2) Resources – every task requires some sort of resource allocation. The person you are delegating to is a resource in themself. What other things do you need to complete the task? Write them all down e.g. time, money, training.
3) Definition of done – be specific about what success looks like. For example, if you need someone to collate some images for you, you might define ‘done’ as: 10 images of the Mona Lisa, in jpeg format and 300 x 300 pixels in size. Being clear about success avoids nasty surprises at the end.
Now you have a clear idea of what needs to be achieved (vision), what is required to achieve it (resources) and the key indicators of success (definition of done).
How to get started
If you’ve never delegated before you might feel scared about giving tasks to other people and you might feel unsure about which tasks to delegate.
Start by creating a list of things you don’t like doing or that you procrastinate on.
Now select one of the tasks on your list that is simple, not important and does not have a tight time schedule. Now find someone who loves the task you have identified and has also demonstrated they can do it.
This is your first step to delegating successfully. Keep going and you will discover how much more effective you and your team can be when you help each other.
One word of warning
Delegation isn’t about absolving yourself of responsibility. Everything you delegate is something you are still the owner of. To this end, always check in regularly with the people you have delegated to. This will ensure they keep making progress and remain motivated.
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