How to delegate effectively

What is it and how to do it

Senior Consultant, Linda Britts, shares her insights on how to delegate effectively.

Have you ever thought, it’s quicker to do it myself or, if you want something done properly, do it yourself? We’ve all been there. But if you’re willing to invest in a little time training someone up, learning how to delegate effectively could be your new best friend and free you up to do more important things!

But before you go on a delegation spree, here are five factors you should consider first:

  1. Is there someone else who has (or can be given) the necessary information or expertise to complete the task?
  2. Does the task provide an opportunity to grow and develop another person’s skillset?
  3. Is this a task that will recur, in a similar form, in the future? Is there a template or knowledge to share from previous years? Is it an ongoing role, rather than a delegated task?
  4. Do you have enough time to delegate the job effectively? Time must be available for adequate training, for questions and answers, for opportunities to check progress, and for rework, if that is necessary.
  5. Essentially is this task part of the responsibility of your role and perhaps your load could be lightened by finding a different one to delegate?

To delegate effectively, you must choose the right tasks to delegate, identify the right people to delegate to, and delegate in the right way. There’s a lot to this, but you’ll achieve so much more once you learn to delegate effectively (delegation is so nice, you’ll want to say it twice, or even three or four times…).

Firstly, let’s look at some pros and cons of delegation



Barriers to delegation

So, we know delegation can be a win-win when done appropriately, but what limiting thoughts and behaviours can get in the way of effective delegation?

Some of the reasons above point to a fear of what others may think of you, while others highlight a lack of confidence in self and the team. Either way, they are all common obstacles and can detract from efficiency and good management. 

If you need to delegate, perhaps you have someone on your management team who has the confidence, knowledge, and organisational skills to help you find people to delegate to? Or if these things get in the way for one of your management team or colleagues, then coach them to develop delegation skills or recruit some people they can delegate to.

Delegate the delegation… now there’s an idea!

So how do you get your team on board?

If you position the task as an opportunity rather than a chore, it will encourage more buy-in from your team.

So, what’s in it for them? Trying new things gives your team members a sense of empowerment and pride, it also gives them variety and opportunity for growth, as well as building their confidence and trust – just to name a few.

What kind of leadership style do you have?

How much control are you willing to give up? It’s important to get the balance right to make delegation successful and worth your while.

As a Manager, it might be tempting to come up with an idea and work it all out, ready to delegate to someone to follow exactly as you planned it. Sounds perfect, right? Not quite. You’ve now taken away an opportunity for them to create their own ideas and solutions. This doesn’t set them up for success or offer them satisfaction in the long run.

You may also decide to delegate a task to someone who is usually very capable, but in an area they’ve not had experience in. If you give them the task without a proper scope, they may spend countless hours reinventing the wheel or stewing over how to do it. Again, not setting them up for success or satisfaction.

Your leadership style has an impact on your team’s success and satisfaction. And you may need to adapt or change your style depending on who you are delegating to.

So, it’s best not to dictate, or abdicate, but aim for a happy place in the middle!

What is an appropriate level of support and authority?

The model below has been adapted from Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard’s ‘Situational Leadership Model’. One style is not better than the other, each style is appropriate to the situation and team. 

Directing – This style is recommended for team members that require a lot of specific guidance to complete a task. You could say: “Donna, this is what I would like you to do, here you have a step-by-step approach, and here is when I need it done.” It’s primarily a command-and-control approach, a one-way conversation with little or no input from Donna.

Coaching – This style is for team members who need guidance to complete the task, but with a two-way conversation, where the team member gives input. Coaching is for people who want and need to learn. You could say: “Jenny, this is what I would like you to do, here you have a step-by-step approach and here is when I need it done. What do you think? Have you any ideas to do it differently?”. Although you still set the approach, Jenny is invited to give input and ultimately work out any change in the delivery plan if you and they think it will benefit the project.

Supporting – This style is for team members that have the skills to complete the task but may lack the confidence to do it on their own.

The leader could say: “Alex, here is the task I need you to do, and here is when I need this done. How do you think it should be done?, let’s talk about it, how can I help you with this one?”

You know Alex can achieve the task, but they need support to remove any impediments.

Delegating – This style is for team members who are motivated, can complete the task and have confidence in doing so. They know what to do, how to do it, and can do it on their own. The leader could say: “Pat, here is the task I need you to do, and here is when I need this done. If I can help just ask, if not you are on your own.” Although it is highly recommended to schedule check-ins, you are confident Pat will complete the task based on their track record.

This simple model will help you approach people you delegate tasks to in a way that will set them up for success. It may also reveal any reasons why things haven’t gone so well with certain people in the past. Adjusting your approach and matching their desires with the benefits of the task may be an easy fix.

Setting your team up for success

Now, let’s look at the other side of delegation – what steps you can take to be successful when you’ve been delegated a task. There are a lot of things to consider setting yourself up for success. For example:

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