Ah, Delegation. The one skill set that will set you apart from a high-performing team vs a low-performing team. There are so many benefits of delegation, including growth and development for your team members, more time, people playing to their strengths, increased innovation, better succession, and easier to manage absenteeism.
Do a google search and you’ll find pretty much everything you need to know about delegation and it’s benefits in the workplace. Why then, is it still such a hard concept for people?
The mindset of delegation is not really addressed, and whilst in this article, I will go through some of the key messages to effective delegation, I want to start by introducing the mindset. Because if you don’t have this mindset, then none of the skills, strategies, and tactics will help you.
Barriers to delegation
When I’ve asked the question, “What holds you back from delegating?” The usual response is:
“Everyone already has too much work to do, I don’t want to dump my work on them”
“They will see it as me shirking my responsibilities – aren’t I supposed to have more jobs because I’m the manager?”
“It doesn’t feel right giving my work to someone else”
“It’s just easier if I do it myself”
“No one will do it as good as me”
I think you get the general gist of these statements. You’ve probably felt the same right? But there is a new mindset that I want to share with you, and it looks like this.
By delegating you are helping someone to learn a new task, to grow and develop new skills. AND, when you delegate, you need to delegate the responsibility – not just the task.
So, what does this look like? Let me give you a real-life example from my own career. I was managing a bank, and there were only a couple of us who had the authority to open and close. As we were a two-person open/close process, that meant I had to be there to open and close at the end of the day.
So, I followed the process that I will share with you, to give others in my team the authority to do the open and close. This included getting approval from the GM, a month-long training process, officially getting signed off, and a set of keys to the bank.
This meant increased authority, responsibility and this person was now one step closer to being my 2IC and taking over from me. I had the mindset of developing a +1. Which meant I had to delegate my entire workload if I ever wanted to have holidays. From then on, I always took some time back to leave early, or arrive later in the morning. The person enjoyed their increased responsibility and felt valued.
So, can you see, that with the right mindset – delegation is not about dumping work, nor is it about handing over the work you don’t want to do. It’s about developing other managers and leaders and helping others to grow.
Now that you’ve adopted the right mindset, here’s how we go about effective delegation.
What is effective delegation?
Effective delegation is when a job or task is completed with a successful outcome, and responsibility has either been shared or owned by the person doing the task. It means only being done once, and you have NOT stepped in to take over (because we know it’s easier to do it yourself right?)
What are the different types of delegation?
There are different types or levels of delegation. The first one is complete supervision. This allows you to keep control over a task and is useful when the person is still learning. Like I did in the example above, with the 4 weeks of training. By the last week, I was not partaking in the process – just fully supervising.
You should only ever use this level of delegation as part of a training process, as it gives the team member the least amount of independence.
The next level is partial supervision. This is generally when you allow your team member to do their task without looking over their shoulder, but you have very clear check-in times, where you might make sure you look over a report before it’s sent off as an example. In my above banking example, this is when I remained outside, waiting with the rest of the team until the open process was complete. Just in case anything went wrong – I was still there.
You must have an end date to this stage – otherwise, your team member will think you’ll always be there looking over their shoulder, and all they want you to do – is to trust them.
And this brings us to the last stage – complete independence. And, as the name states, you have fully handed over this task! Be very careful you don’t rush too early to this level which can leave your team member feeling unsupported, and problems occurring. For my example, this occurred when I could leave early, arrive later, or go on holiday. It is the ultimate end goal. And when we were able to get to this level of delegation, I then started on the next person 🙂
Steps to effective delegation
There are 10 steps in the delegation process, and for brevity, I’ll go over the first three, which are the most important to get right. You can download all 10 delegation guidelines below.
Step 1: Determine the activity
Here you want to make sure you are not handing over legal responsibility for a task that you get paid extra to perform. So, what tasks CAN you delegate? Make a list of EVERYTHING you do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Then answer these questions in order, for each task.
Must I do this task – meaning, is this a specialised skill set? Or do you have a legal responsibility? Hint – there is probably only ever 1 or 2 tasks that fit into this bracket. If you got a no here, move on to the next question.
Is this a vital task that must be done correctly? Think safety, skillset like operating a crane, or being a surgeon… Again, most of the time you will get a no here too. Let’s keep going.
Do I like doing this task or not? This question really hits on your strengths. Is this a task that fills you with joy? Or drains you? If you get a yes here, then keep it and move on to the next task on your list. If you get a no, let’s move on.
Could you delegate this task? Is it appropriate or ethical? Now, this is where your mindset really comes into play. I want you to also ask- will this benefit someone else’s growth? Most of the time you will get a yes here.
So, now that you’ve determined the activities that you CAN delegate, let’s go to Step 2.
Step 2: Pick the Right Person
Sounds pretty easy right? But if you have this new mindset of helping someone to grow and develop, then they are going to want to take on more responsibility. And if you don’t know who in your team wants to move up the career ladder, please go and start talking to them about their development. Find out. You need to make sure the person is willing to undertake the training and level of responsibility that delegating this task brings.
Step 3 – Explain why you are delegating.
This is one of the most important steps and now that you’ve adopted your new growth mindset, this part is easy. You’ve chosen that person because they have expressed interest in growing and developing, you believe in their capabilities. Who wouldn’t want to hear that?
Don’t ever tell someone you are delegating because you don’t have time. Actually, don’t ever delegate just because you don’t have time. THAT is dumping workload onto someone else, and all it does is break down trust, appreciation and leaves them feeling unvalued.
The delegation process takes MORE time to do it right – but if you do it once, you’ll never have to do that task again. Download the 10 steps to an effective delegation checklist and go through each step BEFORE you delegate anything.
About the author:
Passionate about creating authentic and courageous leaders, Emma Rhoades is an award-winning entrepreneur and founder of Her Leadership Journey – an online platform for women in management and leadership.
She brings a unique combination of formal study and her own less than desirable experiences in the workplace to inspire leaders to own their ambitions, to increase their visibility and leave a lasting impact on those they serve.
She’s curious, asks loads of questions (and expects an answer most of the time 😊) and will push you to believe in yourself like you’ve never done before.