23 Tips on How to Delegate Work Effectively
This article explores step-by-step tips on delegating tasks properly. Managers who have learned how to delegate work effectively stand to reap the rewards of increasing their productivity, work output and boosting employee morale.
When used effectively, delegation not only helps a manager to complete their responsibilities but also provides development opportunities for employees.
Delegation frees up a manager’s time to focus on critical priorities. Since many hands help to lighten the burden, supervisors can consequently accomplish priorities through others.
Employees can surprise you by doing delegated tasks much faster, more accurately and with more energy than you could do.
You can quickly skim all the 23 delegation tips on the table of contents below then click on any tip to read further details. Please enjoy reading. Thank you.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Definition of Delegation
- Delegation as a Learning Opportunity
- Benefits of Delegation
- What to Delegate/Examples of Tasks to Delegate
- What You Should Not Delegate
- Barriers to Effective Delegation
- Determining the Specific Task to be Delegated
- Identifying the Person to Delegate to
- Explaining why You are Delegating the Task
- Outlining Your Expectations of the Final Results
- Providing a Deadline
- Ensuring Requirements are Fully Understood
- Providing Mini-Trainings
- Providing Necessary Resources to Accomplish Delegated Tasks
- Tracking Work That You Have Delegated to Others
- Following-Up and Providing Feedback
- Being Available
- Being Mindful of Other People’s Workloads, Priorities and Deadlines
- Expressing Appreciation
- Mistakes in Delegation
- Preventing Reverse Delegation
- Enlarging the Delegation Pool
- Helping Employees to Grow and Develop
What is delegation? Delegation can be simply defined as giving, handing over or assigning someone to do some of your work, tasks or responsibilities.
The tasks are usually handed down by a supervisor to an employee or subordinate.
Delegation can also entail the assignment of specific decision making authority from one person to another – typically from a manager to a direct report.
Delegation empowers others to utilize their talents, knowledge and capabilities.
When done correctly, delegation is one of the tools that can be used for managing priorities; it not only helps you to complete your tasks but also helps to build the skills of others.
If you are not up against a tight deadline, use delegation as a development opportunity to stretch the skills of your team.
If an employee has previously expressed interest in learning certain skills or if you feel a specific employee would benefit from growing their skills in a particular area, delegation can help them to grow and expand their abilities such as problem solving, decision making and communication.
Handing over or assigning some of your challenging tasks to employees, helps them to test drive their capabilities and learn on the job.
The biggest benefit arising out of delegation is that it frees up a manager’s time to not only focus on high level priorities but also have more time and availability to effectively manage their subordinates.
Additional benefits of delegation include the following:
- Increases the skills and knowledge of subordinates.
- Creates and encourages an environment of trust.
- Increases staff motivation.
- Presents a pathway to promotions whereby as an employee executes more and more complex delegated work, they in effect demonstrate competence for rising up the career ladder.
- Self-confidence is increased when staff can capably handle new assignments.
- Can lead to creativity and innovation as employees experiment and identify better methods of doing tasks assigned.
- Builds your skills as a leader in areas such as teaching, coaching, supporting, evaluating and praising.
It is important to not only delegate boring work or things that you don’t like doing but also delegate interesting work and tasks that you enjoy doing.
This combination offers a mixture of routine tasks, challenging tasks and interesting tasks.
Depending on the task’s difficulty, employee’s experience, skill level and time available among other factors, you can then decide how much leeway or autonomy to give when delegating a task and how often you should check-in or receive progress updates.
Examples of tasks to delegate include the following:
- Writing draft reports, proposals, documents, budgets, letters, memos, emails and meeting agendas.
- Data collection, data entry and data analysis.
- Proofreading, editing and formatting documents.
- Tracking expenses.
- Completing expense reports.
- Reconciling credit card statements, payments and invoices.
- Developing marketing materials.
- Preparing presentations and presentation background materials.
- Handling logistics for meetings and events.
- Coordinating events.
- Routine duties such as filing, photocopying, organizing, typing, scanning, booking meetings and appointments, travel arrangements, screening calls, taking minutes, ordering supplies and running errands.
- Creating and improving internal processes and procedures.
- Designing forms and templates.
- Updating and distributing newsletters.
- Exhibiting at workshops, conferences or events.
- Shortlisting new vendors and suppliers.
- Substituting other staff when they are out sick or on vacation.
- Empowering others to lead meetings where they can showcase their knowledge, skills and passion to colleagues, senior leadership and other important stakeholders.
- Participating in interviews for new team members and providing input.
- Empowering your team to come up with solutions to problems and to help in implementing the best alternatives.
- Researching merits and demerits of proposed solutions.
It is worthwhile to note that some tasks can also be delegated externally to consultants, contractors, subcontractors, freelancers or outsourced.
Tasks that should not be assigned to others to perform include sensitive and confidential tasks and critical decisions that can have repercussions if not handled well. Examples comprise of:
- Your key responsibilities.
- Long-term planning.
- Laying out your vision.
- Making final hiring decisions.
- Reprimanding an employee.
- Performance review and evaluation.
- Praising and motivating your team.
There are many reasons why managers do not delegate.
Some of the reasons emanate from the manager’s fears, convictions and beliefs and other reasons are based on the employee’s attitude and work culture.
Here are some obstacles to delegation:
- It can take too much time upfront in explaining, training and showing an employee how to do a task.
- Not knowing how to delegate.
- Wanting to do everything yourself.
- Desire to be the hero, bask in the spotlight and take all the credit.
- Fear of losing control where you want work to be done exactly the way you do it.
- Lack of trust or skepticism, unsure or wondering if others can do tasks well; doubting that others can do tasks to your standards.
- Lack of time.
- It didn’t work out well before and unwillingness to take a risk or try delegating again.
- Fear of subordinates outshining you by doing your work better than you.
- Micromanaging – wanting to control how the work is done.
- Fear that you won’t have anything to do after delegating.
- Wanting to appear busy all the time.
- Employees resisting delegation.
- Overworked employees.
- Employees lacking skills to do the delegated roles.
- Staff avoiding making decisions emanating from fear of failure or fear of making mistakes.
- Lack of training, resources and information to finish the work.
- Lack of independence by staff – too much reliance on the boss for detailed directions.
- Lack of initiative.
- Organizational culture that does not tolerate mistakes.
What do you want to be done or accomplished? Once you have decided to delegate, identify a specific activity that an employee should do.
It should not be a vague request that can suffer from multiple interpretations or cause confusion.
Your request or scope of work should be clearly defined and focused. The more details you can provide the better.
Who should do the task? Identify who is most likely to satisfactorily complete the work especially when it is time sensitive.
Prior to delegation, invest time to learn your employees’ interests, know what they excel in doing, be aware of other priorities they are currently handling, learn the areas where they would like to grow and develop and know the strengths and weaknesses of team members.
One simple method is to start off by delegating small tasks and progressively increase to more challenging tasks.
Observe how the tasks are executed such as methods or processes used, time taken and quality of final product.
Over time, you will learn who is good at doing specific tasks and how much volume each person can handle successfully.
Why are you delegating the work? When dividing assignments it pays off to set aside some time to discuss the task.
For major tasks share the big picture of what you are trying to accomplish and why the task is important.
For simple tasks mention how the delegated work feeds into and supports other priorities.
How will the end result look like? How you will know the task is complete?
Give a clear description of what the final result should look like. This acts as a road-map to guide staff as they execute the assigned task.
When is the task due? Mention the date, time or both by when the work should be done.
The deadline should be realistic and the employee should under normal circumstances be able to complete the task within the time-frame provided.
If it is a long-term project or a large assignment, break it down into milestones each with its own mini-deadline.
Confirm that your requirements for the task delegated are fully understood and that you are both on the same page.
Request the employee to repeat back or paraphrase what they are supposed to be working on.
Based on their answer you will know if your instructions are well understood or if you need to offer clarification.
If needed, give small trainings where an employee can observe how you do the delegated task. In this demonstration, share your tips and knowledge and answer any clarifying questions.
The next step is for the staff member to do the task as you observe how they are doing it. This provides an opportunity to guide them and offer corrective feedback.
For detailed tasks, it is helpful when the employee takes notes on the key steps involved in completing a specific process.
For delegation to be successful, a manager should provide staff with resources needed to accomplish the delegated tasks or alternatively let them know where to get the necessary resources.
In addition, it is good practice to inform other team members who are supposed to be collaborating that you have delegated a specific task to a specific person.
This is especially critical if an employee will be requesting others to work or contribute to an activity. The team would need to know that such requests have the delegated authority of the supervisor.
Tracking delegated tasks simply entails keeping in mind four questions, namely:
- Who is working on what task?
- When is it due?
- How should the end result look like?
- What is the current progress?
You can use any system that you like to stay on top of your delegated tasks from simple notes to spreadsheets to calendar appointments or reminders to Gantt charts.
The main idea is to know at any point in time the tasks you have handed over and how they are progressing in order to address any risks, challenges or hold-ups in good time.
Your tracking systems will help you to oversee the successful completion of delegated tasks.
One of the unfortunate things that a manager can do during delegation is to delegate a task then walk away and stay uninvolved.
It is vital to check-in at specific intervals.
Following-up provides an opportunity to assess how much work has been done and provide corrective feedback and even encouragement.
It offers an opportunity to discuss any changes in the scope of work or shifting priorities.
Following-up likewise demonstrates to employees that the work is important and it is critical to complete it.
Even though the initial training and handover of a task might have gone smoothly, one typically realizes what they don’t know or what extra information they need once they start working on a task.
For this reason it is necessary for a manager to be available to answer any additional questions that could arise as the task is being executed.
If not managed well, delegation can turn from a positive to a negative experience when an employee, who is typically a star performer, is overloaded with delegated tasks.
The vicious cycle creeps in slowly where the more you perform delegated tasks well, the more other tasks are added to your plate until eventually you are struggling from the weight of both your own to-do list and delegated work.
Causing the employee to work long hours at the risk of burnout – what was once a blessing turns into a curse. This can lead to demotivation, low morale, stress and even staff turnover.
Therefore, a manager should walk a fine line of balancing between delegated responsibilities while at the same time being mindful of employee’s existing workloads, priorities and deadlines.
After the delegated task is successfully completed, convey your appreciation, gratitude and recognition.
Providing praise especially publicly lets the employee know that their contribution mattered and was appreciated.
It also reinforces and encourages future positive behavior and contributions.
A few mistakes that can hinder smooth delegation process include the following:
- Insisting on work being done your way.
- Favoritism where interesting tasks are always given to specific employees while others get left out or get boring tasks.
- Delegating to someone without the required skills.
- Not monitoring the progress.
- Not delegating.
- Ignoring poor performance and missed deadlines.
- Regularly extending or postponing deadlines.
- Not being available to clarify and answer questions.
- Lack of feedback.
- Failing to offer appreciation when work is done.
- Not delegating consistently.
- Delegating to overworked staff who have too much to do.
- Delegating only routine work.
- Delegating everything you are supposed to do.
- Not offering clear instructions on the expected end result.
A history or prevalence of reverse delegation occurs where the manager delegates tasks to staff only for staff to hand back unfinished tasks to the boss to complete them.
It can be frustrating when a manager constantly ends up doing or completing previously delegated work. This beats the point of delegating.
It similarly means that there are underlying issues that need to be addressed such as unclear instructions, lack of skills, fear of making decisions and fear of making a mistake.
Reverse delegation can be mitigated by providing clear instructions when initially handing over the assignment, checking-in periodically on the progress and offering guidance.
When staff run into challenges, encourage them to think of and propose solutions, if needed, you can guide them in choosing the best alternative and let them do the implementation.
Likewise, identify training opportunities to increase employees’ skills and confidence.
Consciously make the effort to enlarge the pool of employees who you can delegate to.
This might require a bit of training and coaching initially with a view of reaping rewards later on.
It can be easy to slip into the habit of delegating a particular task to the same person or people over and over.
Endeavor to diversify both the number of people doing the work and the type or variety of tasks being assigned.
Through frequent and consistent delegation, a manager will be able to establish areas where the skills of subordinates fall short.
Proactively identify skills that are necessary for the completion of regular tasks in the company and take steps to help employees develop the needed skills and competencies.
Below are a few ways of working on staff development:
- Delegate progressively challenging tasks and take time to coach and mentor staff to build their confidence and abilities in executing new responsibilities.
- Offer regular feedback on how an employee is performing and work together on areas for improvement.
- Recognize and publicly praise achievements in a timely manner.
- Identify free online courses, e-books and training videos that staff can benefit from.
- Talk to your staff to find out their career goals and areas where they would like to grow and develop in their jobs.
- A supervisor can conduct one-on-one training or large group trainings where they share their knowledge, skills and expertise.
- Staff can also expand their skills by participating in job rotation and observing how other employees perform their jobs.
- Working on inter-departmental teams and projects can expand the knowledge and skills of employees; they will learn what others do. In addition, it provides an avenue for networking.
- Invite a consultant to train staff.
- Encourage employees to join professional organizations and subscribe to industry reports.
- If a company has a professional development budget, it pays off to enroll staff in relevant courses.
- Employees who have attended external training can cross-train their colleagues.
Additional Resources on How to Delegate Work Effectively
- How to Delegate Effectively and Get More Done
- Successful Delegation – What and How to Delegate Effectively to Teams
- 9 steps for delegating work more effectively
- Successful Delegation – Using the Power of Other People’s Help
- 7 Strategies for Delegating Better and Getting More Done
- 6 Steps For More Effective Delegation
- The Art of Delegating: What and How to Delegate to Your Directs
- How To Delegate The Right Tasks To The Right People: Effective Management Skills For Leadership Success
- Guidelines On How To Delegate Effectively
- How to Decide Which Tasks to Delegate