A Manager’s Guide on How to Delegate Effectively

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A Manager’s Guide on How to Delegate Effectively

Delegating tasks always sounds great…in theory. Some of us may even fantasize about the ability to delegate all of our work away so we have time to truly focus on what’s important or the aspects of our job we love the most. But in reality, it’s difficult to know how to delegate effectively. 

In fact, most people are hesitant to delegate their responsibilities. One Stanford University survey revealed 35% of executives admitted they want to improve on delegation. Some people are hesitant to let go of control, figuring it’s easier if they complete the job themselves, so they know the work will get done how they like it. Or, others don’t want to push work onto their direct reports and overwhelm them.

However, if managers truly want to help their employees grow, they will delegate. Doling out new responsibilities provides workers with the opportunity to stretch their talents and develop new ones. To put it plainly, good bosses delegate.

If you’re unsure of how to delegate effectively, here’s our step-by-step guide to help you challenge your employees, ensure work gets done, and clear projects off your plate:  

What is delegating?

Don’t think of delegating as taking work off your plate (though that is a nice perk). Rather, view it as an opportunity to help others develop new skills.

Of course, before you delegate a specific job, really think about your employees and answer these questions:

What are their individual talents and interests?

What motivates each of them?

What skills are they looking to improve?

What are their career aspirations?

The answers to these questions will help you best match the task to the worker and learn how to delegate effectively on your team. In turn, that will help you make better use of everyone’s strengths and develop your team’s skills.

What tasks should you delegate?

Carefully choose what you delegate. Is the job just drudge work? Is it well beyond the scope of your direct report? You want to ensure the work is worthwhile for all involved.

Some experts recommend trying the “70 percent test” to determine if you should delegate the task. This rule suggests that if an employee can perform the task at least 70 percent as well as you can, you should delegate it.

Additionally, we recommend setting milestones and checkpoints so that no one becomes overwhelmed and they feel supported along the way. Lastly, make expectations clear—what do you expect from the employee, what help can he/she expect from you, and how much authority/autonomy will they have on the project? It’s hard for people to proceed with confidence if they don’t know their limits.

A manager shares how to delegate effectively with a direct report

When is the best time to delegate tasks?

Don’t pass off work just because you’re busy. When it comes to learning how to delegate effectively, you need to make sure you have time to guide someone through new processes and when he or she is ready to jump to the next level. If you hand off an assignment prematurely or haphazardly, issues are likely to arise.

Again, be sure you have the time to sit down with a direct report, walk them through the scope of the work, outline expectations, and a project timeline, so they know exactly what’s expected of them and how they can ensure their work is meaningful. Not taking the time to communicate clearly and ensure they understand what you’re asking might ultimately end up creating more work for yourself or your employee. 

How to delegate effectively?

No matter the task, make sure you delegate effectively by being specific and clear, while allowing for flexibility and creativity. After all, your employees may approach an assignment from a different angle or viewpoint, which should be encouraged, as long as the final results are acceptable. 

Also, don’t forget that there’s a difference between answering a few questions and hand-holding. You don’t want to hover over a project once you’ve assigned it to someone else. That can undermine your employees and curb their development. Trust that they have what it takes to tackle the task and the wherewithal to come to you when necessary.

A manager effectively delegates a task to an employee

How can you recognize your employees’ contributions?

Be sure to give your employees credit where credit is due. Bring up their name in meetings and emails, have them present their project in meetings, or point questions their way so they get more visibility outside of your immediate team. This not only recognized their amazing contributions, but it also helps establish them as a subject matter expert within your organization and highlights their ability to deliver superior work. 

When it comes to learning how to delegate effectively, you can’t forget to make time to demonstrate your gratitude privately. According to study by OC Tanner, 79% of employees say a lack of recognition was a major reason they quit a job. Ensure your employees feel seen and appreciated by carving out a few minutes of your next 1-on-1 meeting to thank them. Tell them how much you appreciate their efforts and provide any constructive feedback to help them grow from the experience. 

Why should you delegate tasks as a manager?

Ultimately, learning how to delegate effectively can be a win for everyone involved. Sure, it might initially slow your progress, but investing in your teams’ skills always pays off.

Plus, you might get a little breathing room and maybe even the opportunity to tackle some new projects of your own. Just as critical, your employees will gain confidence with their newly developed skills. 

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