Why Learning to Delegate Is Good for Managers and Staff
Delegating effectively is vital for managers who want more time to work on other tasks — plus, there are benefits for employees. Here are helpful tips for how to accomplish this.
There’s a saying that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. If that’s true, then most people are wasting 60% of their time. In the workplace, where time is literally money, there are probably a lot of tasks better off delegated than completed by managers.
Delegating can be challenging. You have to choose the right things to delegate; the right person to delegate them to; and the arrangement has to be beneficial to both parties.
Outsourcing your work to someone who isn’t competent to handle it makes more work in the end. Hoarding tasks, especially those with low value, adds to your workload.
Delegating effectively is worth pursuing for managers who want more time to work on other tasks. It’s also worthwhile to upskill employees with competencies that ready staff for growth and promotion.
If you’ve ever seen home organization shows you know the method is to create categories: keep, donate, and trash. Approach delegating the same way. What tasks should (must) you keep; which can you delegate; and which should you stop doing altogether?
A study from the London Business School found 30% of managers believe they delegate well: only 1/3 of their teams agree. If you find yourself struggling to manage all your work — wishing there was more time to do higher-level assignments instead of being bogged down with minutiae — you’re ready to start delegating.
Why is delegating important for managers?
Delegating gives managers time to focus on the tasks that have the highest return on investment. Paperwork is necessary, but it doesn’t motivate staff.
Low-value work takes time away from the duties that increase engagement and productivity. When you’re overwhelmed with busy work, you don’t have the time or energy to devote to important, meaningful assignments.
The more training employees have, the more ready they are for promotion from within.
For staff, the work you think is drudgery may be a way to step up the corporate ladder. The more training employees have, the more ready they are for promotion from within. We learn our jobs from the bottom up: the easiest, most basic tasks first.
Building on that knowledge, we increase experience and competencies until fully qualified for the job at hand. Delegating to staff members begins their knowledge-building. Training and development are great retention tools for business. It starts employees on a path that can lead to growth within their own work, or movement throughout the company.
For managers and staff, delegating means trust. Your trust that staff are able to handle important work translates to empowerment and engagement. The dynamic shifts from a leader/underling workplace to a leader/peer environment. The change can be significant at all levels.
How to create delegation categories for tasks
Using the organizational model, start creating categories of work. Make lists of the tasks you handle on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. There will be many items that are routine; setting schedules for example. Some duties aren’t regularly scheduled, but come up frequently.
There will be tasks you must keep. This should be confidential work, like managing employee evaluations, discipline, or payroll. Any work you perform that shouldn’t be made public knowledge should not be delegated. Other tasks may be ripe for reassignment.
Audit the remainder of your workload and decide what someone else can handle. Look for tasks that will not take more training time than they’re worth. You may start by breaking down existing tasks into parts that are easier to delegate.
Look for tasks that will not take more training time than they’re worth.
If you routinely put together reports, for example, you may start by assigning the research portion to a team member. As they become more versed in the project, they may be ready to take on the next steps needed to compile the data.
Look for tasks that are easy enough for a staffer to manage, and easy for you to review if necessary. Build in a learning curve: they probably won’t get it right the first time.
Anticipate they’ll need some help the first few times. As they master 1 task, you may be able to train them on next steps for the work, or other tasks altogether.
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Decide on delegate-ees in the company for various tasks
Who you delegate to is the next decision in the process. You’ll want to delegate extremely rote tasks to more junior-level staff so they’re better able to accomplish them.
More complex duties are better delegated to employees who have a larger knowledge of the work or the organization.
Try to choose people who will be anxious and even excited to take on more responsibility. Delegate to the staff that are looking to grow their skill set overall, and their value to the company.
Don’t go on enthusiasm alone: make sure they have the general knowledge and the time to accomplish the task. You want to stack the deck in favor of success as much as possible to delegate effectively.
Discuss the shift with workers before giving assignments
Plan on talking to the person you’re delegating work to, rather than simply assigning it to them. Let them know this is a responsibility you think they’re ready to take on. Explain the benefits of training upward to prepare for the next step in their career.
Let them know you’ll be training them on how to do it, and will be available for any questions when they take over. The objective is to mentor the employee into building their skill set, along with getting work off your desk.
You don’t want to just dump work on someone else’s desk. You do want to lessen your workload of rote tasks while building their competencies.
Establish a timeline for training and getting started
Once they’ve agreed to take on the responsibility, establish a timeline to get started, complete training, and have them work independently.
Look for visual cues as you make the offer and as you assign/train on the work. Many employees are anxious for growth, but worried the questions they ask may suggest they’re not ready for the responsibility.
Be prepared to over-explain. Outline the reason for the task, who will review it (initially you, eventually possibly someone higher up); as well as how it’s done.
Get into all the details of the task, and ask the employee to mirror back what you’ve said. Initially, you’re better off giving too much information, rather than too little.
Provide meaningful feedback to employees
‘No, that’s not right’ isn’t feedback, it’s criticism. When they make mistakes (and they will) don’t just correct, look for an opportunity to build knowledge.
Why did they do it that way? Where did they start down the wrong path? What step, if any, did they miss? In some cases, a small initial misstep is easy to correct.
As you walk through their thought and work processes, you may find where the error occurred. From there, you can guide them to path of doing the task correctly.
In some cases, the person you choose will not be up for the task. Take the assignment back with thanks for a good effort.
If the process works well, be ready to heap on the praise to the employee and to the team.
Don’t let 1 failure deter you from delegating to others. Your 1st choice may not have been a good fit but that doesn’t mean another employee won’t be a stellar option.
If the process works well, be ready to heap on the praise to the employee and to the team. Let the group know their colleague has taken on more responsibility and built their skill set.
You’ll be looking for volunteers for the next round of delegation soon, so the more enthusiasm you can build for the process, the better.
Keep the delegation going with additional tasks
You’ll want to delegate 1 task to 1 employee at a time. Unless you have a few weeks with no other work to perform, you probably don’t have the time to juggle multiple delegations.
Plan on a small task 1st that’s easily accomplished so you can laud the employee publicly for their success.
Then look for the next task on your list and the next volunteer or employee you think is ready to take on more. You may spend more time training more complex assignments, but you’ll have built your own skill set training, reviewing, and finally handing off the task with each duty you delegate.
What are the barriers to delegation for managers?
If you’re still hesitant to delegate, you may want to explore your reasons. Are you unsure the employee(s) are up for the task? Remind yourself why you hired them; what potential you saw in them.
Are you standing in the way of their growth without even giving them a chance? Set aside that hesitation and give delegation a try: you might be surprised how ready they are.
If you’re worried someone else taking on your work will make you redundant, hedge your bets. With the time you saved on rote tasks, work on duties that are more beneficial to your team and the company overall.
Show your own managers that you’re using your time efficiently by delegating. You’ve reassigned the menial tasks so you can perform more meaningful ones — and here are your results. That’s more bang for their payroll buck all the way around.
If there are tasks you really enjoy and don’t want to give up, consider delegating them anyway. It may be something you like to do, but is it the most cost-effective use of your time?
The task may be enjoyable for someone else, as well. If you can spread a bit of happiness around, you may be able to increase engagement on your team. Just let the person you delegate the task to know you might want to step in and help occasionally.
Delegating is an initial investment in the time it takes to train with a long-term payoff. It may take weeks or months for the employee to become competent in the task.
That may seem like more work than you want to take on today, but eyes on the prize. In a few months’ time, you’ll never have to run that report, fill out those forms, or do that mind-numbing task again.