Whether you're a team leader, an entrepreneur, or in some similar position of authority, delegation is going to be a major key to maximizing your productivity and keeping yourself sane during tight deadlines or large workloads. The problem is, many entrepreneurs and leaders don't know how to delegate effectively, or aren't willing to do it unless they absolutely have to.
Delegating tasks is a skill that, like any skill, can be learned and improved on over time. Put these seven delegation strategies into practice and watch as your organization's efficiency increases:
1. Learn to let go. The biggest problem most new bosses and leaders face is the inability to let go of their own work. Sometimes they feel so dedicated to completing their own work that they refuse to let other people help. Other times, they fear that nobody else has the skills or abilities necessary to execute the work effectively.
Whatever the case may be, your first priority needs to be to learn to let go. Start small, delegating only the smallest tasks, and gradually work your way up. Get to know your team better and improve the trust among you and your co-workers. Take baby steps and know that eventually you will have to let go of your work if you want your team to be successful.
2. Establish a firm priority system. As part of the letting-go process, start developing a priority system for tasks. Of course, this system will vary on the basis of your expertise, your industry, and the types of tasks you usually handle, but create at least four categories, according to the degree of effort a task requires and the degree of skill. The highest-skilled category should contain tasks that you keep on your own plate, while those in the lower-skilled categories can be assigned to others. The degree of effort should tell you which tasks are more important to delegate--for example, giving someone else responsibility for a high-effort, low-skill task will save you lots of time.
Establishing a firm priority system will help you understand the nature of your tasks and delegate efficiently.
3. Play to your workers' strengths. As a leader, you'll have to learn the subtleties of your teammates. You should know each individual's strengths and weaknesses, including his or her current, and potential, range of skills. When delegating, take a look at your team and assign tasks to whoever has the greatest number of relevant skills for that task. It seems like an obvious choice, but too many leaders delegate to whoever has the lightest workload or is the most convenient.
It's also important to be consistent. For example, delegating the same type of tasks to the same individual will eventually increase that individual's aptitude for those tasks.
4. Always include instructions. Even if the task process seems obvious to you, make sure to include instructions with each task you delegate. If you have specific preferences for how the assignment will be carried out, include that information. If you have a strict deadline or milestones you need to hit, be clear about them.
Including details and straightforward instructions from the get-go will avoid most communication gaps and will allow your tasks to be executed effectively. It's a proactive strategy that both you and your employees will appreciate.
5. Don't be afraid to teach new skills. Lacking someone on your team with the ability to execute a certain task on your to-do list doesn't mean the work can't be delegated. Most skills can be learned--some more easily than others--so don't be afraid to teach as a part of the delegation process.
Though the assignment of your first few tasks will take more time than it will save you (since you'll need to train your chosen employee), consider it an investment. By transferring those skills, you'll be opening the door to assigning all similar tasks to that individual in the future, ultimately saving more time than you spent teaching.
6. Trust, but verify. Once a task is delegated, trust your teammate to execute it on his or her own terms. This will allow the person to tackle the work the way he or she feels is best. However, don't be afraid to occasionally step in and verify that the task is moving along as planned. For example, if you made an assignment a week ago that's due tomorrow, trust that your employee is on top of things, but send a quick verification email to make sure the person hasn't hit any snags.
Doing so encourages more trust and respect within your team and helps prevent breaks in communication or understanding.
7. Use feedback loops to improve delegation moving forward. Feedback is the most important part of the delegation process, and it works both ways. If your workers have done well with a task you assigned, let them know by publicly thanking them and offering genuine praise. If they've fallen short, don't be afraid to give them some constructive criticism.
On the other hand, invite your workers to share their thoughts on how you're delegating--it's a critical chance for you to determine whether you're providing enough information, or whether you're assigning the right tasks to the right people.
Delegating isn't always easy, and the process isn't always clear cut, but the sooner you start, the sooner you'll develop the expertise to do it effectively. Realize that the process will never be perfect, but learn from your experiences and make ongoing adjustments for improvement.