Delegation can be a powerful skill when it’s used correctly. In addition to freeing up valuable time for leaders, delegation encourages employees to seek feedback, according to one 2017 study, and this ultimately helps them improve their performance.
However, effective delegation can be difficult in today’s fast-paced world. Digital tools have improved remote communication, but communicating digitally is not always as effective as talking on the phone or having a face-to-face conversation about the work that needs to be completed. Carving out time for a conversation can also be challenging when many employees prefer digital communication or work in a remote environment. Understanding what can and cannot be delegated, and the skills for doing it effectively can help both leaders and employees be more productive.
Essential Delegation Skills
Know Which Tasks to Delegate
Understanding what can and cannot be delegated is a good first step because not every task is appropriate for others to take on. Types of tasks that can be delegated include:
- Routine tasks
- Tasks that somebody else could do better
- Tasks that will help another person develop
- Tasks that another person would enjoy or find interesting
On the other hand, tasks that should not be delegated include:
- Personal requests
- Crisis situations
- HR issues and confidential matters
- Giving feedback (positive or negative)
- Strategy and planning
Choose the Right People
Once you know which tasks are appropriate to delegate, you must choose the right people for the job by matching skill sets and capacity. In order to ensure the outcome, you’ll need to delegate to the person who will complete the delegated task to your satisfaction. They may have to stretch a little beyond their current skill level, but the request must be realistic and achievable. It could end up being a great learning opportunity!
Have a clear understanding of the goal and communicate it to the person performing the task. When an employee understands why they are doing something, they are more likely to do it right the first time. Define the desired outcomes, give people freedom within certain boundaries to achieve the goal, and encourage them to seek clarification as needed.
When the task is completed, let the employee know what they did well or how they can do the task better the next time. If it’s an ongoing task that you think could be improved, rather than getting frustrated with their performance, let the employee know why the results aren’t meeting your expectations.
Indicate how much time should be taken for each task. It’s important to remember that a delegated task might take a little longer when an employee with less experience is doing the work, but delegating will give you more time to focus on other work and allow them to gain valuable experience.
Build Trust and Empower Others
It can be difficult to let tasks go, especially when you have been doing them for a long time. Trust the skills you have equipped your employees with and help them learn how to do the task as well as or better than you would. The more employees feel that you trust them to do the work right, the more empowered they will feel.
How to Teach Delegation Skills
Like any skills, learning to delegate effectively takes practice. Teach and test new skills in a safe environment using experiential learning. In a fun, immersive experience that creates time pressure but no risk, participants can quickly see the effects of their behaviors. This can help teach them better ways to communicate, how to identify which tasks should be delegated, how to identify the best person for the job, and the many benefits of successful delegation.