One of the great things about being a manager is that you can delegate various types of tasks to other people instead of having to do them yourself. This may sound like a rather cavalier statement, but it’s true. To do your job as a manager efficiently and effectively, you must delegate various types of tasks to your staff. If you don’t delegate, you will be overworked and your staff will be underutilized. In fact, you do a disservice to your staff if you don’t delegate because this inhibits the staff’s ability to learn new things and grow as professionals.
Like all management activities, delegation must be done in a thoughtful, ethical and forward-thinking manner. To that end, consider the following tips when delegating tasks to your staff, contractors, vendors and others.
1. Clearly define what can and cannot be delegated — As a manager, be mindful of what should and should not be delegated. For example, specific tasks may contain proprietary information that should not be shared at your staff’s organizational level. There are also tasks that your team members may not be qualified to perform, thus setting them up for failure. Lastly, don’t just dump unwanted activities onto your staff to get them off your plate. Eventually, the team will figure out your plan, and it will hurt your credibility as their manager.
Delegation is a powerful tool to maximize your team’s productivity, enhance their skill set, help them grow professionally and free you to perform higher level tasks. All that being said, make sure that you are delegating the right tasks for the right reasons.
2. Create a prioritized delegation plan — Now, knowing what to delegate, your next step is to develop a plan outlining what tasks should be delegated to each staff member. When determining who gets which tasks, you should consider the following:
• Who is fully qualified to perform the task;
• Who could perform the task with proper instruction and mentoring, with the goal of enhancing their skill set;
• Who should not be given the task because of their professional weaknesses and/or specific political situations/reasons;
• Who deserves the task based on seniority, past performance and relevant considerations; and,
• The visibility and importance of the task to your department and/or company.
Delegating the right tasks to the right people is not always easy or popular, but if you do it with transparency, fairness, consistency, and for the good of the company, your staff will learn to respect your decisions.
3. Provide clear instructions and define specific expectations — There is nothing worse than being delegated a task, not given instructions on how the task should be performed, nor told what is expected, working diligently to complete the task, and then being told the result isn’t what was wanted. Give specific instructions as to what needs to be done and your expectation of the ending result. This combination of instructions and expectations provides the correct delegation framework and establishes criteria as to how your employee will be judged when the task is completed.
An Environment of Help, Protection
4. Provide a safety net — When delegating tasks—particularly if it’s a new experience for the employee being assigned the task—as the manager, you must be willing to provide an appropriate level of management support to help ensure success, for both the employee and the task.
A safety net is an environment of help and protection that works by:
• Providing the necessary resources and training;
• Allowing sufficient time to perform the delegated tasks properly;
• Helping employees navigate company politics; and
• Providing instructions on how tasks should be performed.
5. Let go and allow people to do their work — If you delegate a task and then micro-manage it to the extent that you have actually performed the task yourself, you have not delegated. Neither should you totally divest yourself from the delegated task because, as the manager, you are still ultimately responsible for all work performed within your department. The trick is to walk that fine line between being overbearing and non-participatory.
6. Be mentoring and instructive — This step provides direct instruction and advice to the person performing a specific delegated task. This sort of task-based instruction is a “learning moment,” namely, just-in-time training on how to perform a specific task or how to deal with a specific situation.
The level of instruction and advice to be provided should be based on the combination of the person’s specific experience and the task difficulty and political ramifications.
7. Give credit to those doing the work — As a manager, you should adhere to the philosophy of “it’s the team’s success or my failure.” This approach will cause you to raise the visibility of your staff’s good work within the organization, which is motivating to them and will instill loyalty in your staff toward you. It also will help to remind you that you are ultimately responsible for both your team’s growth and your department’s productivity and performance.
8. Actively solicit feedback from your team — Asking the members of your team if they believe you have delegated the right tasks to the right people has the following advantages:
• It helps you grow as a manager by learning how you are perceived as a manager;
• It helps to improve your team’s performance by providing you with insights on better ways to delegate and support your staff; and,
• It shows your staff that you are willing to accept their suggestions, making you more approachable as a manager.
Anyone who is not comfortable delegating tasks to others should learn to go outside that comfort zone. Your willingness to take this leap will enhance your department’s productivity, enhance your managerial ability, and help your team expand its knowledge and range of skills.
Eric P. Bloom is the president and founder of Manager Mechanics LLC, a nationally recognized speaker and author of “Productivity Driven Success: Hidden Secrets of Organizational Efficiency.” He is also a nationally syndicated columnist, certified executive coach, and an Adjunct Research Advisor for International Data Corp. He is also a past president of National Speakers Association New England. Visit www.ManagerMechanics.com or twitter.com/EricPBloom.