Lighten the Load: Why Decisive Delegating Works Wonders for Managers

Here’s a quick question for you. Think about the particular task you are working on right now. Are you really the only person in your team who can do it?

Control freaks, the impossibly impatient and everyone who agonises over assigning tasks – this one’s for you. Because the next essential tool that we’re adding to our manager’s kit is the ability to delegate effectively. “The issue of delegation is one we’re asked about all the time,” observes PEPworldwide managing director Kathryn Anda. “So many managers tell us that their team is already so busy, they feel they can’t delegate more work and instead do it themselves. However, they need to consider that if there’s a task that should be someone else’s responsibility, why isn’t that person doing it? Or, more importantly, why can’t they? Because that’s an issue that warrants investigation.”

So investigate it we must. Let’s take a closer look, then, at the prerequisites for effective delegation:

1. Review your rationale.

Disinclined to delegate? Let’s take a look at why – because we’d argue that few of us willingly embrace extra work. “We often hear ‘Oh, it’s quicker if I do it’, perhaps because there’s an underperforming staff member,” explains Anda. “Well, you need to address that. As soon as you do something because it’s quicker if you do it, then you have a problem that should be flagged. At that point you should stop and either coach, mentor or performance manage your way through it.” Cue our favourite analogy: the soccer team. “The temptation is not to pass the ball, because you believe it will be quicker if you run straight through,” says Anda. But consider this: do you really want to be the only player on your team? That will become exhausting. Fast

2. Reappraise your relationship with your team.

Clear communication is key to a successful team dynamic, but it won’t happen without first building trust. “Ensure that your team members feel comfortable enough to come back to you if they feel they can’t take on a delegated task,” explains Anda. “They need to know that, within reason, it’s ok to renegotiate deadlines.” Which segues nicely to:

3. Provide support with prioritising.

So your team member’s too busy for your task? Take this opportunity to help them see the wood for the trees. Work through their weekly plan with them, says Anda. “And make sure that they’re prioritising by urgency, not seniority. Often people prioritise a task simply because it was delegated by a senior team member – not because it’s urgent. Help them to prioritise by giving them a deadline with an exact date and even a time.” More on this in our next point:

4. Set deadlines. Track progress. And follow up any failure to deliver.

Providing a deadline is a no-brainer, right? But it’s pointless if you don’t chase it up. “And if you don’t, your team will learn that your particular assignments can wait,” explains Anda. “As well as pushing your requests further down your team’s priority list, you’re encouraging a behaviour of not delivering to deadline.” We’re sure we don’t need to point out that enabling bad habits is not ideal.

5. Don’t create unnecessary urgency.

Speaking of bad behaviours, take a look at your own tendencies, too. We’re all guilty of occasionally leaving things to the last minute, but don’t make a habit of it. “It’s not fair to put pressure on your team because you’ve been inefficient,” says Anda. Quite right.

6. Clarify not only the “what”, but the “why”.

Make sure the motivation is as clear as the mission itself. “It’s important that your team member understands not just what they need to do but why they need to do it – and who will be impacted by it,” explains Anda. “It can be helpful to clarify the consequences of inaction, too.”

There’s one final thing to consider: another word for “delegate” is “empower”. So yes, by delegating you’re adding to someone’s workload. But you’re also giving them an opportunity to not only undertake and own an assignment, but to perform it successfully. Your vote of confidence combined with their sense of achievement is pretty empowering, don’t you think?

Over to you.