Delegating tasks effectively leaves you enough time to focus on strategic work.
Successful delegation is a critical skill for growing a business.
There is no such thing as single-handed success – even the top-performing business leaders need assistance. If you don’t delegate, it is impossible to scale and grow.
But how can delegation become your second nature so that you build a self-managing business you oversee for several hours per week?
Watch the video to learn more about delegating work:
What is Delegation at Work?
Work delegation is the process of distributing and entrusting tasks to a team member while a Leader, Process Owner, or Project Manager maintains a part of the authority to lead, coach, guide, and motivate.
- Distributing tasks is dividing a huge workload into smaller chunks.
- Entrusting tasks is showing a firm belief or conviction that someone else can take over a part of the work and do it at least as well if not better than you do.
Why do You Fail at Delegation?
Most people struggle with how to define delegation because of not having appropriate boundaries about what they tolerate in the leadership role and in team roles.
Another reason for failing to establish a clear definition of delegation in business is missing (usually digital) tools, systems, and workflows to practically implement the theoretical definition of delegation at work.
And finally, suffering from the God complex, or the desire to have control over every business area is another common obstacle to delegating tasks effectively.
When you delegate, you let go of some of your power, responsibility, accountability, and autonomy in favor of another person but to the benefit of the whole organization.
Delegation in business is leveraging the power of other people to help you deal with the two most common leader challenges: shrinking resources and increasing work demands.
The benefits of delegation for employees are acquiring new skills, greater work autonomy, and recognition and acknowledgment of work value and contribution.
How to Delegate Effectively
Holding onto power cuts both ways.
Instead of using your leadership skills, by making yourself indispensable, you get too involved. Your capacity to grow decreases with non-essential tasks.
In contrast, your capacity increases as you become a powerful delegator because you increase the upper limit of what is possible with the resources you currently have.
A simple test of how effectively you apply delegation principles is how you answer the following question:
“If I had to take a week off from work for some unexpected reason, do I have an unshakeable conviction that my team will run the “business as usual”?
Effective Delegation Principles
To delegate effectively, focus on the following five principles:
Let’s learn more about each of them.
Delegate by focusing on the results, not on procedures. Specify a clear outcome and let your employees choose the method. When you clearly explain the results, your employees understand the standard of work expected of them.
Work outcome is not the same as the work output or a business goal. To learn more about the differences between these three and why they are important for delegating tasks effectively, watch the following video:
Trust is based on a transparent and clear recruitment process that includes the following steps:
- Choose people with the right level of expertise and work ethic
- Set up quality standards to align work expectations with teams and clients
- Design a digital leadership system for effective collaboration
- Be open to communication and available as a coach and mentor
When you have clear boundaries about the job roles and the team structure, you can let go of a share of responsibility and let the work take care of itself.
Delegative leadership also called laissez-faire leadership is a leadership style that gives open hands to employees to make decisions and allows for making mistakes.
Provide support where needed but resist upward delegation or tossing back tasks at you.
To delegate effectively it is sometimes necessary to redelegate—to change the vector of power from pointing at you to pointing right back at your employees.
For example, an effective method to avoid upward delegation is to minimize the time spent on meetings. When an employee asks for a meeting to get your opinion, advice, or decision, ask them to come back to you with a clear meeting agenda and questions. Often, a problem can be solved and a meeting avoided in this way without the leader’s involvement.
Decide the scope of delegation before you offer to provide support. Balance the level of responsibility with the level of authority and autonomy to provide the right level of support.
Successful delegation rests on keeping up to date with the progress by tracking results. A tracking system with distinct roles, task expectations, and authority boundaries will set you as a methodical delegator who has the guts to share responsibility with the team.
For a job well done, give due recognition. Your employees should know when they have accomplished a job according to standard. Well-deserved recognition propels faster decision-making, personal growth, and innovation.
Delegation is work recognition only if there is task commitment. Employees committed to the task express and devote motivation to find and implement creative solutions to execute a task successfully. Therefore, it is not enough to just toss any work at employees. Find challenging and inspiring tasks to allow employees to put their best foot forward, which may be even better than your first expected.
Delegating Tasks: Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Delegation is not a simple role replacement. Managers make the simple mistake of thinking that delegating tasks is simply passing the work from senior to junior employees. But this is not true; if you think you will be replaced, you will avoid delegation.
Delegation of power is an opportunity for your team to learn from you under your guidance and support so that you can grow and expand individually and on the level of the organization.
If you are a self-starter most leaders usually are) you tend to evaluate your work more beneficially than the work of someone else. This frequent cognitive bias of business leaders is an obstacle to becoming a successful delegator.
Once you become aware that extreme confidence in the quality of your work prevents you from maximizing other people’s talent, you can delegate more effectively without the self-enhancement effect shooting you in the foot.
Another mistake lies in the faulty thinking that by delegating you are extending deadlines. While it may be true that first-time delegation will take some of your time (for example, one hour), you are making space for something new. As the person that got the task learns and becomes better in what they do, they will shorten the execution time and gain one hour each week.
Simply put, when delegating effectively, you are sacrificing current time in favor of future growth.
Tasks Crying to Be Delegated
If you are unsure what type of work is ripe for delegation, check if the task meets the following criteria:
- Small. Tasks that don’t take much of your time one by one but accumulate over time. One example is virtual assistance for various administrative tasks.
- Repetitive. Boring tasks that don’t yield significant learning outcomes but they must be done to ensure structure and a firm base. One example is KPI tracking and measurement.
- Time-consuming. Tasks that require a lot of your effort should be delegated. For example, writing can take many hours if you don’t have a proven template on how to do it in short timeframes. Delegate writing by using outlines, videos, and checklists.
- Trainable. Every task that can be taught easily is a candidate for delegation. For example, simple project management workflows are excellent candidates for delegation.
- Expert. When you don’t have the skills for a particular job, the best way is to delegate it to an expert. You cannot become a licensed accountant or a designer in a day. Allow for an experienced person to take over responsibility.
Delegation is an essential leadership skill to specify limits to the work you do and can do and to find the balance between controlling and inspiring people.
Delegating Tasks with Virtual Teams-as-a-Service
Delegating tasks doesn’t have to be an everyday struggle. Here is a simple blueprint you can follow to delegate successfully:
- Reflect on how your mindset defeats your delegation skills. What scares you to delegate work? Do you self-sabotage by trying to remain in control of every little detail? Are you confident in your business strategy? Do you know how to hire the right experts?
- Identify the tasks that are appropriate for delegating. Have you developed a system for task ownership? Have you systemized tasks to help with onboarding new people even if someone decides to leave suddenly? Do you know what tasks can be automated? What tasks must be executed by an expert and where to find one? When a colleague asks you about your systems, can you confidently explain: “This is how we work!”
- Define roles, find people, and assign clear task workflows. Once you know what actions are under each task that will take you to your business goal, clear roles will help you manage a team with a digital leadership system that requires a minimum investment of your time. Freelancing platforms have tools to help you match the right people with the right job description. So, to hire successfully, write immaculate job descriptions.
- Set up tracking systems for delegation management. Just as you need a tracking system for any KPIs, you can have one for work delegation. If you manage hundreds of people in a large organization, poor business delegation can undermine the whole system. Ensure you have a system to oversee what happens without sleep deprivation.
- Provide communication tools to prevent upward delegation and redelegation. This step is about simply asking anyone who joins your team to try to solve a problem in the least time-consuming and resource-eating way possible for you. For example, limit the time for meetings and your availability for communication. But make sure you follow through when you say you’re available.
- Establish a digital leadership system that supports delegation. Delegating tasks boosts your team’s confidence as they know they can accept responsibility and task ownership based on a reliable and transparent digital system.
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