One of the athletic disciplines that is very similar to the efficient delegation of tasks at work is the relay. The runners blindly pass the sticks to each other, on a 20-meter field at a speed of approximately 20 km/h while remaining in their tracks at all times.
The runner who hands over the baton has the greatest responsibility for the handover, because he must put the baton exactly in the hand of his teammate and not drop it until the other runner gets hold of it.
It seems simple, but what athletes do requires skills such as communication, mutual trust and coordination. Even the best teams may be disqualified because the baton is handed over outside the field, or the team may lose because the runner drops the baton.
Delegation of tasks can be a failure even for the most well-coordinated teams, due to various reasons – if the wrong person is chosen for a task, if not all information that is essential for successful completion of the task was passed on or if too little resources are invested in the employee training.
Why is delegation important?
“Trying to do everything yourself in leadership is like mowing the lawn with a pair of scissors.” – Michael Byrne, lawyer and partner in one of the largest law firms in New York, Silverman Shin & Byrne
What most leaders have in common is that 24 hours is not enough for them, because a large number of people require their attention, and a lot of tasks require their time, commitment and focus. Indispensable meetings, emails waiting for a response, urgent calls, creating presentations, reviewing and commenting on the team’s tasks, are “easier” things to do. Complicated tasks such as making important decisions, giving direction to the employees, or having serious conversations with team members are challenges that team leaders face on a daily basis. Not to mention, there is their private life.
With such a heavy schedule of demanding tasks, the skill of delegation is more than desirable.
Harvey Mackay, the founder of MackayMitchell Envelope Co., notes that delegation can be a chance to make workload more manageable, but more than that, it can provide really valuable teaching opportunities for your employees.
Delegation strengthens teams, builds trust and helps in the professional development of team members. Over time, it helps leaders determine more easily who has the best skills to solve problems.
According to Dr. Scott Williams, a professor of management at Wright University, delegation is much more than just making things easier for leaders.
The biggest benefit for people working in a team is that they can develop new skills and gain additional knowledge, which prepares them for greater responsibility in the future.
Delegation can also be a clear sign that the leader respects the ability and competence of team members and trusts their discretion. Employees who feel trust and respect tend to be more committed to the organization, and especially to their managers.
What are the biggest mistakes managers make when it comes to delegation?
Although the benefits of delegation are obvious, those also include more time to support others in skills development, as well as working individually on tasks that require deep concentration, many managers still fail to effectively delegate tasks to others.
One study found that two psychological processes make people reluctant to delegate work:
- A lot of effort and time invested in acquiring a certain skill or knowledge makes the leader distrustful of members who had less time to devote to learning and developing the necessary skills.
- The lack of time for the leader to be able to teach other team members certain skills.
Below we will introduce you to 7 steps to help you delegate efficiently so that your team shares the workload evenly and makes progress.
1. Choose the right person for a particular job
An important part of leadership skills is understanding the strengths, weaknesses, and the potential of employees. If it is necessary to delegate a task that requires cooperation to be completed, it is good to delegate it to someone who is better at teamwork.
However, allowing people to choose the tasks they are most interested in is also a way to build trust and encourage team engagement. Practically speaking, it is a useful strategy to employ this approach into your work from time to time.
2. Explain the purpose of the delegation
If a task is suddenly delegated to someone, it will be beneficial if the person who was in charge of delegating explains why this person was given that responsibility.
“When you select people to delegate to, tell them why you chose them specifically and how you hope to see this help them grow” says Alex Cavoulacos, founder of The Muse. “Help them see that each task is an opportunity to take on more responsibilities or develop new skills.”
3. Give precise instructions
Every good delegate provides basic and important information without micro-management. Stephen Covey, author of “7 Habits of Highly Efficient People,” suggests that you delegate the results, not the methods.
For example, say, “Here’s what we are doing. Here’s what we’re after. I want you to get the sale,” instead of “Follow up on those leads,” Covey says.
Tell employees your goals or milestones, and then allow them to solve challenges in their own way. You are not looking for perfection so avoid micromanaging your employees. Someone else might perform the task differently and as long as he achieves the required results, that’s fine.
4. Provide resources and training
Make sure the person in charge of the job or project has the necessary skills, tools and resources needed to succeed, or provide them with a way to work on those skills.
For example, if you are looking for someone to use a particular tool that they have not used before to complete a task, make sure there is a plan for getting to know the tool in advance.
5. Give responsibility and authority
If the employee has a task but is not fully authorized to make decisions, as a result there will be a backlog in work, where the employee will inevitably be seeking help, and the task will take more time for both the employee and the manager.
“Managers who do not delegate responsibility for certain tasks end up in a situation where they report to their employees and do their part of the work, instead of the other way around” writes Martin Zwilling, founder and CEO of startup Professionals.
Nurture an environment and culture in which people feel capable of making decisions, asking questions, and taking the necessary steps to get the job done.
6. Check the quality of the work done and give feedback
Checking the completed work and making sure that it was done correctly with the feedback is quite enough for the end result to be successful.
7. Give thanks
When someone completes a task or project on time, show sincere gratitude and point out certain things that have been done particularly well.
When you start paying attention to these details, you give employees a roadmap for what they should continue to do on the road to success.
“This is the simplest step but one of the hardest for many people to learn” Zwilling says. “It will inspire loyalty, provide real satisfaction for work done, and become the basis for mentoring and performance reviews.”
Benefits of learning to delegate
If you delegate well, you can increase the trust and commitment of your employees, improve productivity, and ensure that the right employees perform the tasks that suit them best.
That’s why you shouldn’t be afraid to pass the baton. You may need a little practice in the beginning, but if you make an effort, your business will undoubtedly grow and evolve.