If you are one of the many managers we talk to on a regular basis who feels like there aren’t enough days in the week, or hours in the day to get everything done you need to, then chances are you are not utilizing one of the most important tools in your managerial toolbox. That tool is the skill of delegating.

When used properly, delegation will free your time to work on the things that are truly important to move your department or company strategy forward. Unfortunately, it is too often used improperly and leads to more trouble and causes many managers to utter the famous phrase:

“It would just be easier to do this myself.”

Delegation isn’t Dumping

Managers (especially new managers) often make a critical delegating mistake. Frequently, they view delegating as a way to rid themselves of all the unpleasant tasks on their to-do list. If this is the chosen approach, you will likely alienate your good resources and spoil any chances of getting them to help in the future. Good leaders delegate tasks that provide the opportunity for an employee to stretch and develop a new skill. If you have an assignment that looks fun and challenging, try giving it to someone else. Chances are they are going to have a great experience and offer to take on more projects.

Once you have identified the task to delegate and have selected the appropriate person to take on the challenge, there are a few tips that should guide your experience.

6 Tips to Effective Delegation

  • Make sure the task should be delegated. Not all tasks can be given away. Personnel issues, for example, need to be handled by the manager and no one else. By the same token, look through your task list and search for things that you should not be doing as a manager. Ask yourself why you haven’t already delegated those tasks.
  • Know the development opportunity provided by the delegated assignment. If someone gets a delegated task, you both win if at the end of the assignment, the receiver of the assignment has done something new or learned something they didn’t know how to do prior to the experience. The challenge for you as a manager is to understand the strengths and development needs of each of your employees and provide assignments that give them the opportunity to stretch.
  • Clearly explain the performance expectation. What do you want done and by when? How much authority does the person taking the task have and when do they need to check in for guidance? Once you have set expectations, ask them to come back to you with a plan for completing the task. This gives you a chance to correct any misunderstanding before too much work is done in the wrong direction.
  • Check in and give feedback. This step gets missed a lot in delegation. Once you have handed off the task, you should check in early to see if your team member is off to a good start and offer assistance, if needed. This sets the tone for good communication and let’s the employee know it’s ok to ask questions or ask for help when needed.
  • Provide resources and remove roadblocks as needed. It’s extremely frustrating to be given a task only to find out you can’t complete it because you don’t have the right tools or information to be successful. This is your job as the manager.
  • Close the feedback loop. Once the task is complete, provide feedback and ask for feedback from the individual who completed the task. More importantly, thank them for helpinf you and give specific examples of how their work on that task contributed to the bigger picture of what’s going on.

Getting a good task to work on is one of the best ways to feel engaged in the work of the group. As a manager, it’s a free and easy way to provide a development opportunity to someone on the team. Not only will you free up some of your time to work on other things, you just may find a resource you can go to for other important work.