Of all the leadership skills1https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/sites/gsb/files/publication-pdf/cgri-survey-2013-executive-coaching.pdf, delegation is the one that CEOs are most actively striving to improve. And for good reason.
Delegating frees up your time and empowers your team members. It’s a fantastic skill to cultivate. But also tricky because it requires trust, communication, and letting go.
If you’d like to learn actionable tips for how to delegate, then this guide is for you.
What Does Delegation Mean?
Delegation is the process of assigning tasks to another individual. In a corporate environment, it’s typically when a manager gives responsibilities to someone on their team. However, individuals can also delegate tasks to a virtual assistant (both job work tasks and personal ones).
Usually, people will delegate tasks to free up space in their workload or to make sure that the person doing the task is the one who has the best skills for it. For example, if you wanted to build a website, you could do it yourself. Or you could hire a website designer, who likely has better skills for the job—and you would be delegating the task to them.
Here are the key steps to go through when delegating:
- Identify which tasks to delegate
- Select the right team member for the job
- Set clear expectations and timelines
- Provide support and resources
- Monitor without micromanaging
- Give feedback and appreciation
Let’s get into more detail to set you up for delegation success!
How to Delegate in 6 Steps
If you need help with how to go about delegating, then follow these six steps to get the ball rolling.
1. Identify which tasks to delegate
The first key to delegating is figuring out what to delegate. Here is a process you can go through.
- List out every task you spent time on at work this past week
- Then, next to each task, write the following:
- Is this a task I will do again (or was it a one-time thing)?
- How many hours did this task take?
- Is it necessary that I am the person to complete this task (or could someone else do it as well)?
- Do I genuinely enjoy this task?
- Then, highlight the tasks that fit all three of these criteria:
- You will do the task again
- You don’t need to be the person to do the task
- You don’t genuinely enjoy the job.
Those are the tasks to start delegating right away.
Here’s a hypothetical example of this process:
Task Delegation Process
|List of tasks I did this week||Is this a task I will do again?||How many hours did this task take?||Is it necessary that I am the person to complete this task?||Do I genuinely enjoy this task?|
|Ran team meeting||Yes||2||Yes||Yes|
|Booked training venue||Yes||3||No||No|
|Hosted podcast episode||Yes||3||Yes||Yes|
Once this hypothetical person delegates those two tasks, they will have seven more hours freed up each week!
Here is a link to that spreadsheet so you can fill it out yourself. Just hit “file” then “make a copy.”
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2. Select the right team members (or freelancers) for each task
Now that you know what tasks to delegate, you must figure out who to give them to.
If you manage a team, make sure you’re delegating to someone you can trust and with the necessary skills, experience, and interest in the task. It’s also worthwhile to see if you can align this task with a team member’s strengths, career goals, and growth trajectory.
Remember that delegation is a two-way street, and it is essential to communicate with your team to understand their capacity, interest, and availability.
If you are a solopreneur, you can find freelancers online to delegate to. Upwork is a great place to start; it’s a site where you can post your task and budget, and then candidates will send in offers if they are interested in helping.
Action Step: Once you know the tasks you want to delegate, there are two routes to finding the right candidate for the job.
- Intuit, who is best. Just look at the task and see who comes to mind
- Take a more systematic approach.
- List out every team member.
- Jot down each person’s strengths, weaknesses, and areas where they want to build skills.
- See if you can match up team members with tasks
For example, you can delegate the task of scheduling meetings.
Consider a team member who is logistically sound, reliable, and on the ball. It also helps to develop their people coordination and management skills.
Sometimes, an employee is the right fit for delegation simply because they are hungry to take on more responsibility for their professional development.
Action Step: Sit with your team and do the Alphabet Work exercise. Identify everyone’s A, B, C, and D work. You should be taking tasks that are your A and B work. You should delegate tasks that are your C and D work and give them to people who find those tasks to be their A and B work.
Watch our video below to learn how to stop doing “this” with your to-do list:
3. Set clear expectations and timelines
Now that you know who you’d like to help with the task, contact them. Depending on your work culture, offering them the responsibility may be appropriate versus assigning it to them. But either way, make sure they have the capacity for it and give them a chance to let you know otherwise.
Also, ensure that it’s crystal clear what you’re assigning, what outcomes you expect, and the timeline for completion. Be specific, measurable, and realistic, allowing for necessary training or resources.
It’s also nice to provide context, background, and a sense of the big picture.
When delegating the task, make sure to include the following information:
- What is the job (be as specific as possible)?
- What outcomes do you expect?
- When do you want the task completed?
- Is there anything they should know that might help them complete the task
- Why is this task important, and how does it fit into the bigger picture for the team/company?
4. Provide support and resources
When you grant responsibility, you also grant authority. Encourage your team to take ownership of their work and trust them to make decisions.
At the same time, create a supportive environment where they can ask you for help if needed.
There are two things you can do to create such an environment:
- When you give the task, provide them with any information they might need and any resources or training that would help them
- Make it clear that you are here to help. Invite them to reach out with questions or if they hit any speed bumps. And consider telling them that you’ll keep communication lines open during specific time windows.
Try an app like Donut to help automate communications, like checking in on progress.
And if you’re interested in other online communication tools, here’s an article that describes all the must-knows.
5. Monitor without micromanaging
While you want to empower your team members to take ownership of the project, you also want to make sure the project is on track.
The best way to get around this is to set check-in intervals where you make yourself available to questions and get a sense of what direction they are taking the project to ensure that they’re pointing in the right direction.
I used to write content for a YouTube channel, and I remember one project I spent about 30 hours on. I finished it thinking I had done a masterful job. But when I sent the script to my manager, I was alarmed to discover that I had written about a slightly different topic than he had wanted! I wasted his money and hurt my confidence. And this could have been avoided if we had checked in halfway through.
Action Step: Set up check-in meetings at regular intervals. That could be once a week or once a day, depending on the timeline and urgency of the task.
In these meetings, there are two big questions for you to ask:
- “Is there anything coming up that you could use support with?”
- “Can I hear about the general direction of your project, just to make sure you’re on the right track?”
6. Give feedback and appreciation
Open communication is the key to successful delegation, both through giving encouragement and creating a culture of feedback during and after the project.
You’ll want to know how you could delegate and manage more effectively, and your team members will want to know what they did well and what they could improve.
A fascinating study3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5461250/ suggests that the more you delegate, the more your employees will seek out feedback. It’s best to beat them to the punch and create feedback space before they need to ask for it.
Action Step: Set up a post-mortem feedback meeting after your employee completes the delegated task. Consider these prompts:
- Ask them:
- “How did the task go?”
- “How did you feel about the amount of support I provided?”
- “How did you feel about the frequency I checked in on you?”
- Share with them:
- “Here’s what I thought you did great on.”
- “This is how you could have been more effective in completing this task.”
The Benefits of Delegating (& Why You Should Do It!)
You’ve now got a template for how to delegate! For further inspiration, you might appreciate understanding how delegating will make your team more effective.
Delegating maximizes your productivity and quality.
Gallup4https://www.forbes.com/sites/martinzwilling/2013/10/02/how-to-delegate-more-effectively-in-your-business/#4577397f69bc surveyed 143 CEOs of the Inc. 500 (the 500 fastest-growing private companies in the US) and discovered that CEOs better at delegating are more successful.
Specifically, they found that CEOS who were better at delegating grew their companies faster, took in more revenue, and created more jobs over three years.
Here are the numbers:
Simply put, managers who delegate tend to see better results.
And it makes sense. Delegation allows managers to distribute tasks strategically among their team members. Managers can free up their time to focus on critical decision-making and higher-value activities by assigning responsibilities based on skill sets.
This allows managers to accomplish more in less time.
Think of it this way—imagine there are two architects who each design a house.
One architect plans the design, gathers the supplies, and lays down every piece of brick.
The other architect builds a team where one worker gets the supplies. A bricklayer places the bricks. And a carpenter hammers together the roof. Each worker does the task that they are best at while the architect coordinates everyone’s efforts.
Which architect do you think would build the house faster? And just as importantly, which place would be of higher quality?
In short, delegating is one tool to help you reach your goals. If you are interested in focusing more on how to set the right goals and achieve them, here is a science-backed method you can give a shot and see if you like:
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Delegation improves team collaboration
Delegation goes beyond task allocation; it cultivates collaboration within teams.
When you delegate, you are showing trust in your employees. You are communicating that you believe they can do a good job and you don’t need to do every task yourself.
This builds an environment of trust, autonomy, and engagement. And we know from studies5https://hbr.org/2015/12/proof-that-positive-work-cultures-are-more-productive that when employees are more engaged, they make fewer errors, skip fewer work days, and work more productively.
Delegation catalyzes personal growth.
Delegation catalyzes personal growth, benefiting both managers and employees.
By delegating tasks, managers provide opportunities for employees to develop new skills, expand their knowledge, and increase their confidence.
At the same time, when a manager delegates, they can invest more time in their growth, enhance their leadership abilities, acquire new skills, and explore innovative approaches.
Not to mention, delegating is a practice of releasing control and learning to trust and coach others. All of which can be a considerable growth edge for many leaders.
Further, when Gallup6https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/182414/delegating-huge-management-challenge-entrepreneurs.aspx interviewed entrepreneurs, they found that the business owners better at delegating expected to grow their businesses more than those who weren’t great delegators. Delegating can help with your confidence and vision to create more for your team and your company.
The Biggest Challenges People Have With Delegating (& How to Overcome Them)
Alright, so you know how to delegate. And you know who to delegate to. And you even know why delegating is so important.
But you still might feel some resistance to it. Let’s review the most common internal obstacles people face when delegating.
You are afraid of relinquishing control.
This is a biggie. You’ve likely gotten to where you’re at in your career because you do a great job with your work.
You’re good at what you do! So it’s naturally scary to give your tasks to other people.
What if they don’t do it right? What if they screw it up?
I get it. We all have a control freak inside of us.
But if you want to reap the benefits of delegation, you’ll have to learn to loosen your grip on control. Just a little bit 🙂
Here are two tips to help.
Tip 1: Recognize that you already delegate tasks all the time
When you buy a sandwich from a restaurant, you are delegating the task of cooking. If you ride in an Uber, you are delegating the task of driving.
Most goods and services you spend money on are some form of delegation.
You might have less identity wrapped up in these tasks, but recognize that you already know how to delegate.
Tip 2: Delegate gradually
If you have an intense fear of relinquishing control, start delegating smaller, less critical tasks. You could begin by delegating administrative tasks.
As you witness successful outcomes and build confidence in your team members’ abilities, gradually delegate more significant responsibilities—one step at a time.
You are afraid of overburdening your team.
It’s common for managers to resist delegating because they don’t want to overload their team. This is an understandable fear and ultimately stems from a place of empathy and care.
Overcoming this fear involves effective communication, understanding workload capacity, and trust-building within the team. Here are some strategies to address this fear:
Tip 1: Have a conversation about their capacity
One option is to give your team members an out when you give them a task.
If you delegate a task, open a dialogue to see if it can fit into their workload. And give them the option to either say no or to take a pre-existing job off their plate.
Tip 2: Make it clear you want to help
It will also be helpful if you know that you want to help. This way, your employees won’t feel like you’ve dropped a huge task on them and abandoned them with it.
When they know they can reach out to you with questions or challenges, they’ll feel more empowered and less burdened.
Tip 3: Where else do you feel you are overstepping others’ boundaries?
Your fear of overburdening your team might be separate from delegating. It could be worth investigating where else you are afraid to ask for what you want because of how it will impact the other person.
Does this appear in your romantic partnership? With your friends?
This can help open a pathway for personal and relational growth.
You identify as the person who does it all.
Many successful individuals identify themselves as the “one who does it all.” They take pride in being highly self-reliant. And this attitude likely got them to where they are in their career.
But they will need more time to get them to the next level. Identifying as the person who has to do everything puts a ceiling on your team’s growth. Plus, it can lead to burnout and reduce efficiency.
While this identity has served you incredibly well until now, the only way to get to the next level is to do things differently.
Here’s how to address this issue:
Tip 1: Get clear on how this habit is impacting you
Write a list of all the ways “doing it all” has served you. Then, list how “doing it all” is holding you back.
Tip 2: What are your shortcomings?
Write a list of your weaknesses.
Then, write out which team members have strengths that complement your weaknesses. For example, you may sometimes feel disorganized, but Betty is an organizational maestro.
Then, think about how much better work will get done when your team covers your weaknesses.
Tip 3: Identify with your team, not just yourself
Let’s say Betty is an organizational maestro, whereas you are disorganized.
Chris is a wizard copywriter, whereas your verbal skills are dim.
And Terry has incredible aesthetic and design skills, whereas your taste is uncultivated.
But say you are a master strategist, and decision-making is where you shine.
Think of how superior your team will be the more Betty organizes, Chris writes, Terry designs, and you strategize (as opposed to a team where you organize, write, design, and strategize).
Just like any superhero team (think The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy), everyone on your team has unique strengths. And the more of their work life they spend expressing those strengths, the stronger your team becomes.
Even if your scope of work narrows, your team excels like a strong and cohesive unit. When you identify with your team, you’ll want to delegate more.
Tip 4: Bask in your time saved
Each time you delegate a task, estimate how much time it will save you. Then, appreciate how much more you can accomplish with those hours back.
3 Different Delegation Styles
There is a range of delegation styles depending on how collaborative or instructive you choose to be. Look at the following three types and see which one you resonate with most.
Directive delegation (AKA The Boss With Initiative)
What They Do:
In this style, the manager provides clear instructions and specifically defines the responsibilities of the subordinates receiving the task. The manager will explicitly state their expectations, deadlines, and desired outcomes.
How They Benefit:
This can be effective when tasks are time-sensitive, there’s little room for error, or when the person delegated is inexperienced with the job.
What They’re Bad at:
Directive delegation can be seen as micromanaging or needing more trust in the team member’s capabilities. It may limit the creativity and initiative of the employee taking on the task.
Participative delegation (AKA The Collaborator)
What They Do:
Here, the manager involves the delegate in determining how the task or responsibility will be managed. This can include joint decision-making, brainstorming sessions, or collaborative planning.
How They Benefit:
This style increases buy-in and commitment from team members, allows for creativity and varied perspectives, and often leads to better solutions or processes due to collaborative input.
What They’re Bad at:
It can be more time-consuming than directive delegation and may only be suitable for some tasks or scenarios.
There might be some tasks or scenarios where it’s less about collaboration and employee growth and more about just getting the job done as clearly and quickly as possible.
Laissez-faire delegation (AKA The Empowerer)
What They Do:
Here, the manager provides a broad goal or objective but allows the team members to decide on the methods, processes, and resources to achieve it. This style puts a lot of trust and responsibility on the delegate.
How They Benefit:
Delegating this way can lead to high creativity, innovation, and job satisfaction. It can be highly motivating for members of your team who thrive on autonomy.
What They’re Bad at:
It can be risky if the team member is adequately prepared and skilled. Without clear checkpoints or feedback mechanisms, this method can lead to outcomes that deviate from expectations.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Delegate
What is delegation, and why is it essential in the workplace?
Delegation is the process of assigning tasks and responsibilities to others. It is essential in the workplace as it promotes efficiency, empowers team members, and allows for better focus on strategic priorities.
How do I know which tasks are suitable for delegation?
Tasks that are routine, time-consuming, or require specific expertise can be suitable for delegation. Figure out which tasks take up your time, happen regularly, and you don’t like doing. Then, identify tasks aligning with others’ skills and development goals, ensuring they have the necessary resources and support to do a good job. You can also assess your “C and D” work using the Alphabet Work exercise:
Watch our video below to learn how to stop doing “this” with your to-do list:
What are the benefits of delegation for both managers and team members?
Delegation benefits managers by reducing workload, fostering teamwork, and increasing productivity. It offers growth opportunities for team members, boosts empowerment and morale, and invites skill development.
How can I overcome the fear of delegating and relinquishing control?
Overcome the fear of delegating by building trust through open communication, starting with small or tedious tasks, and providing guidance and support to team members throughout the process.
What communication skills are essential for effective delegation?
Essential communication skills for effective delegation include clarity in assignment instructions, active listening, providing feedback, and establishing regular check-ins to ensure understanding and address any concerns or challenges.
How can I ensure that delegated tasks are completed successfully?
Ensure successful completion of delegated work by setting clear expectations, explaining your desired results, providing necessary resources, offering guidance and constructive feedback, and establishing accountability through regular progress updates and check-ins.
What are some common challenges in delegation, and how can I address them?
Common challenges in delegation include trust issues, fear of overburdening team members, and communication barriers. Address them by building trust through open communication, distributing workload effectively, and fostering a culture of collaboration and inclusivity.
Takeaways on How to Delegate
Delegation is an art, not a science.
It involves communicating your expectations, trusting people to make decisions, and allowing them the support they need to deliver effectively. It’s not an easy skill, but once you get it down, you’ll empower your team and save yourself hours a week.
If you are considering upping your delegation skills, consider these tips:
- Identify which tasks to delegate by listing out your jobs, looking at which are routine tasks, which are the most time-consuming tasks, which don’t necessarily require you to do them, and which you don’t enjoy
- Select the right team member for the job by thinking about team members’ strengths, weaknesses, and areas they want to grow, then mapping that onto the tasks available.
- Set clear expectations and timelines to ensure you and your team are on the same page.
- Provide support and resources both upfront and throughout the process
- Monitor without micromanaging by setting up check-in meetings to ensure that the project is going in the right direction
- Give feedback and appreciation to learn how to improve next time, and encourage your team members.
Remember that delegation requires practice, so trust the process and don’t give up. It’s time to master the art of delegation and take your productivity to the next level!
If you’re interested in other ways to empower your team, you might enjoy this article on how to build a strengths-based team.
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