The art of delegating

Do you sometimes dread delegating? Do you find yourself often just doing jobs yourself when you know you ought to delegate? If so, you are not alone. Delegating is a crucial part of management and leadership. We know we need to effectively delegate tasks to get stuff done. Yet, many managers find it difficult to delegate because of issues to do with their own mindset. There’s a range of possible reasons why we find it hard.

For a manager new to a company or recently promoted, it can be the fear of making a request that could be ignored (particularly if you’re now leading peers). What will they think of me? Who do I think I am, telling others to do things? How do I do it? Or you could be asking yourself one of the following questions; What if he/ she doesn’t do the job in time? What if they don’t do it properly? How do I know it’s being done? What if it doesn’t get done the way I want? I really enjoy this task, so I will just do it. By the time I train someone else to do it, I may as well have just done it myself. And so, it goes on.

We really need to embrace delegation and overcome the things that are holding us back. Let’s look and respond to some of these issues, these ‘what if’s’:

  1. I really enjoy that task, I don’t want to give it to someone else.
    This is a particularly common issue for managers freshly promoted to new roles. They may have tasks they really enjoyed or were good at and there is naturally some apprehension to let them go and give them to someone else. New responsibilities mean a new to-do list and your priorities will shift in a new role. You need to trust your team and upskill them to do these tasks, so you are freed up to do more leadership tasks. Being available to your team when they need you is vital so don’t tie yourself up with tasks that could (and should) be given to someone else. It’s a good opportunity to train someone else up, empower them in the process and build some rapport with your team whilst you’re at it. 
  2. By the time I train someone, it will just be quicker to do it myself.
    Is the wrong answer! Time and effort spent upskilling and empowering your team, is time well spent. By training others up to do new tasks and give them greater responsibility, you will free yourself up with more time to do your new role. Managers in promoted positions often struggle to let go of the ‘doing’ so they can more effectively do the ‘leading’. 
  3. I hate telling others what to do. 
    In a new management role, it’s natural to want to be liked by your team. Telling others what to do and worrying about what they might think of you is all part of the process. By sharpening your communication and leadership skills, this will become easier with time. Don’t forget, delegating gives people in your team greater responsibility and greater purpose. By having more responsibility, they will feel more valued and more motivated. As their manager, part of your job is to help them grow and develop their career. Don’t underestimate your part in helping to grow the leaders of the future. 
  4. I don’t want to relinquish control. How do I know the task is being done? 
    As a leader you need to get to know your team well and learn about their individual skill sets and capabilities. You need to ensure they are working to the right level for them, pushing them just out of their comfort zone, but not too much that they feel overwhelmed and aren’t able to do the work they are given. This is part of keeping an engaged and motivated team. Have regular catch ups and one on ones with team members to better understand what they enjoy doing, what their aspirations are, what they want to achieve. When tasks come up that need to be delegated, make sure you know your team well enough to match the right person to the right task. Determine the level of support everyone might need and plan accordingly. You could set up regular WIPs, or meeting arounds key milestones to discuss progress, troubleshoot any issues as they arise and often guidance along the way. Being available for support and encouragement and checking in with them and letting them know that mistakes are OK, will help them feel empowered to take ownership of the role and be guided (rather than directed) by you. No one wants to feel micro-managed so resist the urge to ask them how they are progressing too regularly. A big part of being a good leader is learning to let go and trust more, particularly if you are naturally a control freak! 
  5. My team is so busy I feel bad stacking them up even more.
    It’s likely if your team is too busy, then so are you. Delegation still needs to happen, and more so during busy times so you are free to be available and offer support and guidance without being bogged down with tasks you don’t need to be doing. There are times when everyone might be busy, and hopefully there is light at the end of the tunnel, with some down time soon. Remind your team of this. Let them know you know how busy they are right now, that you appreciate them and that they will have some down time soon. Set up a team lunch, a day out, or some days off to ensure they know this. 

Whilst it’s still important to delegate roles and not slip into the habit of “I’ll just do it myself”, perhaps you can think of other things to do to alleviate some of the workload. Are there less-important tasks that can be put on ice while you are busy, like non-urgent reporting, certain meetings etc. Are there junior team members who can help and support with certain tasks so that the individual can concentrate on the more important tasks? In this case, maybe choose another team member who has more experience to lead the project, but who can involve the more junior team member. This gives valuable leading experience to the more senior individual and great operational experience to the less experienced person. Win win. 

Regular communication is so important in gauging the motivation and engagement of team members is busy periods to ensure they remain happy and don’t feel overwhelmed. Again, show your support, don’t stop delegating, instead focus on being supportive and approachable and working through workload solutions together.

Do you delegate well? Could you and your leadership team do with one of my tailored workshops to help coach you on delegation and other vital leadership skills? I’d love to share my experience and fool-proof leadership techniques with you. Don’t hesitate. Get in touch today.

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