Managers are responsible for overseeing the operation of a team, office, department, or company. They typically handle significant decisions related to processes, goals, and strategies. However, they can't oversee every aspect of daily operations.
Managers can empower trusted employees to oversee specific tasks within the company so that they can focus on their primary decision-making and strategy duties. Delegation is essential for managers overseeing large teams or engaging in complex business activities.
The challenge for managers is finding employees with the leadership skills and expertise to manage specific business activities without direct oversight. These assistants need to operate with a degree of independence and handle specific tasks, such as planning and running meetings, without any input from the manager.
Delegation requires careful thought and skillful communication so that employees understand their roles, goals, and have the ability to meet expectations.
What is delegation?
Delegation involves assigning responsibilities to others and empowering them to carry out the assigned duties as they see fit. A manager lays out specific guidelines and expectations for the work and leaves the tasks to another employee with the expectation that they complete the tasks in a way that meets all the guidelines.
An example might be creating a financial report. The accounting department manager is responsible for delivering the report. However, they will usually delegate tasks to others. A bookkeeper might be in charge of compiling the financial data using the company's accounting software, and the manager might rely on an analyst to visualize data using charts and graphs.
Once they have these components, the manager can compile the final report, combining the results of the two delegated tasks with their own work. This division of tasks ensures maximum productivity because everyone can complete their portion of the task quickly and move on to other duties.
A delegate is someone who accepts a delegated task from a manager. Their job is to complete the work on time and according to expectations.
The benefits of effective delegations for managers, team members, and organizations
Effective delegation can streamline processes and bring other benefits to every member of a team.
- Managers are not weighed down by multiple tasks, so they are free to make strategic and operational decisions and solve problems that may arise.
- Team members are empowered to handle tasks independently. They feel involved and engaged in the organization's operations.
- The organization or team has a clear chain of command, ensuring decisions get made quickly at the appropriate level.
- Organizations can select the most qualified employees to handle specific tasks.
- Team members can quickly get feedback and guidance from the person in charge of a task instead of waiting for a busy manager to answer their queries.
Skillful delegation ensures the company operates smoothly and productively.
The delegation process
Delegation follows a specific process. The correct steps can ensure the manager gets the desired result and does not have to spend time correcting mistakes or reassigning the task to someone else.
Assessing tasks and identifying the right employees
The first consideration for every manager is deciding which tasks are eligible for delegation. The primary criterion is that you can hand off tasks without compromising quality or productivity. It would be best to also consider whether your current workload will cause you to rush through important tasks, completing them ineffectively.
You likely want to avoid assigning items that involve high-level decision-making. However, you might delegate data collection or report compilation jobs, which could help you make informed decisions.
Choosing the right team members for delegated tasks
Delegation is only effective if you select the correct employee to handle each job.
Qualifications are essential. The person you delegate to needs the skills and abilities to carry out the task. However, competence isn't the only variable to consider. The employee needs to have experience completing such tasks. While there are instances when you might give someone a chance to prove themselves, you will usually seek someone with a track record of successfully working on similar tasks.
Finally, the team member must have time to complete the job effectively. This issue comes up often. Motivated and experienced employees may have received too much responsibility, causing them to produce lower-quality work or experience burnout. Each delegated task needs to fit reasonably within the person's schedule.
Communicating expectations and setting goals
The next step in the process is to ensure the employee understands expectations. The challenge with this delegation phase is that employees may need different levels of explanation. Someone experienced with similar jobs will understand the requirements without much input from management. However, someone unsure may need more in-depth discussion about the details.
Regardless of the required information level, you should always communicate clearly about goals. The employee should know when the work needs to be completed and what you expect on the due date. You should explain what they need to deliver to complete the project. You might also need to include details about the quality requirements and provide examples of finished tasks, if needed, to clarify expectations.
You may outline specific benchmarks to meet or provide analytics data to measure the expected quality level.
Monitoring progress and providing feedback
Delegation skills go beyond selecting tasks and choosing employees to complete them. Monitoring projects and making adjustments is also essential.
You can establish project goals to include benchmarks at regular intervals. Check-in with the person charged with the task at specific times to ensure their work remains on track. You can also use these meetings to offer constructive advice and suggest adjustments before the next benchmark meeting.
These benchmarks should always be clear and related to the final goal so that the employee doesn't waste time on unnecessary work.
Evaluating outcomes and measuring success
While you develop delegation skills as a manager, your employees can hone their knowledge to handle the assignments you provide them effectively.
You can evaluate each delegated task constructively so that employees can learn from their experience and continuously improve. With each delegated task, they can become more and more effective and eventually be able to work with complete independence and train new delegates.
The method for continuous improvement is to measure success for each assignment and then set new goals for subsequent tasks. You might select a specific area the employee can improve upon during the next delegated job. Each of these improvements could represent an incremental increase in quality or independence.
Essential delegation skills for managers
To improve your delegation skills, you should focus on four distinct areas.
1. Time management and prioritization
You need to manage your own time well and decide which tasks require your attention and which take up time without contributing to the overall success of the team or company. By prioritizing your tasks, you will automatically decide which items require delegation and which require your full concentration. If you prioritize, you might realize that some of your work is unnecessary because it does not support company activities.
2. Effective communication and active listening
When delegating, you must communicate clearly, give feedback, and ensure team members know their roles. You also need to ensure they clearly understand the task and expectations. This step requires listening and understanding questions and concerns so that you can give each delegate the information and support they need to complete their assignments and meet expectations.
3. Trust-building and empowerment
Managers must trust their team members to work independently and empower them to make decisions without direct oversight. Workers will feel empowered if they have a transparent, fair manager who provides the necessary support and constructive feedback. The increased trust will also help boost morale.
4. Emotional intelligence and adaptability
Delegation requires managing your responses to challenges and understanding how to deal with employees who are frustrated, stressed, or overwhelmed by a task. You should strive to remain optimistic and ensure that each mistake becomes a positive learning experience. This approach will build a culture of resilience within the office.
Common delegation mistakes to avoid
As a manager, it is common to make delegation mistakes that hinder positive outcomes.
- Over-delegation or under-delegation: These mistakes are common. Over-delegation leaves the team members feeling overwhelmed by too much work, while under-delegation causes the manager to waste time on work easily completed by someone else. Managers should set realistic goals and communicate well to avoid these mistakes.
- Micromanagement and lack of trust: Micromanagement makes team members feel powerless and frustrated. It defeats the purpose of delegation because the manager is spending time overseeing the work instead of focusing on other tasks.
- Inadequate communication or unclear expectations: Managers should clearly explain task goals, deadlines, and expectations because failing to do so could lead to poor quality work.
These problems are easy to overcome with proper planning and skillful communication.
Overcoming barriers to effective delegation
Managers can address issues early in the delegation process to ensure a positive work environment based on optimism and constructive improvement.
- Fear of losing control or authority: Rather than losing control, delegation should free you to make higher-level decisions while others handle tasks that are time-consuming and take you away from your primary work. If you prioritize correctly and delegate to qualified employees, this issue won't arise.
- Concerns about team members' capabilities: As a manager, you should assess team members' skills, provide training and support to overcome this barrier, and be willing to assign tasks slightly outside the team members' comfort zones as a learning opportunity.
- Time constraints and reluctance to invest in training: To overcome this barrier, you must see delegation as an investment in team members and the company's long-term success. As a manager, you can improve productivity and save time and money by training and supporting staff to handle tasks independently.
Improving delegation skills can also lead to more effective management.
Tips for improving your delegation skills
You can take specific steps to hone your ability to delegate tasks.
- Developing a growth mindset as a manager: A growth mindset means accepting challenges, learning from mistakes, and believing you can improve continuously.
- Investing in team members' skills and development: Effective delegation also requires focusing on the needs of team members and finding ways to help them develop skills.
- Embracing feedback and continuous improvement: You can improve by asking for team feedback and applying their insights to your delegation processes.
While it may seem challenging, there are plenty of examples of leaders succeeding by delegating.
Real-life examples: delegation in action
Some of the world's most successful people are master delegators.
- Entrepreneur Richard Branson is famous for hiring people with expertise in specific areas and giving them the independence to build his brands.
- Henry Ford empowered his employees to work on specific tasks for the betterment of the company.
There are many examples of delegation in government. Presidents have cabinet ministers and advisors to handle specific tasks and help make decisions.
Tools and resources for better delegation
You can use a virtual office platform like Kumospace to streamline the delegation process. Collaboration and project management tools available through this software make it easy to assign tasks, provide the necessary support and tools to complete them and define benchmarks along the way.
With tools like chat applications and virtual message boards, you can check progress quickly and unobtrusively before returning to focus on your own management duties.
How to embrace delegation
With proper planning, continuous improvement, and good communication, you can effectively delegate tasks and free yourself to handle your management duties more effectively.
What does delegation mean?
Delegation is the act of assigning specific tasks to others (known as delegates), who become responsible for completing them.
How does one delegate effectively?
Delegating effectively involves choosing tasks to assign, selecting qualified employees to handle them, and providing them the support needed to complete the jobs according to your well-defined specifications.
What are some tips and tricks for delegation?
Delegation requires creating well-defined tasks with specific goals and guidelines that employees can easily understand. In general, a supportive and optimistic approach with constructive improvements will create an office environment where employees feel comfortable and empowered to accept delegated assignments.