Letting go can be difficult to master, but it’s the only way to accomplish everything you want to – and keep your sanity.
You probably have a project list that’s a mile long, with more waiting to go on it. Since cloning yourself is out, you’re most likely going to need to delegate some tasks in order to get everything done. But that’s easier said than done.
To help you delegate the right way, we’ve updated one of our most popular posts with more best practices to help you accomplish more while staying sane.
No. 1: Choose what can be delegated.
The rule of thumb when delegating is that 70% rule. If someone else can do the task at least 70% as well as you can, it might make sense to delegate it. Think of those tasks that take you away from those that are the highest and best use of your time, and give them to someone else so that you can focus on the things that move your business forward.
No. 2: Choose who you will delegate to.
Is there someone on your team that would be a terrific help with this task? They may make a great candidate to take on the extra responsibilities. When you’re considering who can take on the work, be sure to think about what kind of support they’ll need during the process and be honest about whether you’ll be able and willing to provide it.
Some tasks and projects will require you to be a little more involved, but that doesn’t mean you’d be better off, “just doing it yourself.” Delegated projects provide learning and growth opportunities for your team, too, and are essential to keeping team members engaged and with you for the long term.
No. 3: Set clear expectations.
It’s frustrating to hear a leader express disappointment with a team member’s work on a project when the leader says things like, “Jimbo never updated me. He just went on with the project without sharing how it was going. I’ll ask, “so what happened when you asked how it was going and (re)set expectations of how often you would like updates?” There is often a cringe-worthy response to the effect of, “oh I didn’t follow up. He should just know. And I’ll know not to ask him in the future.” This kind of attitude doesn’t help you get things off your plate and it doesn’t help your team member grow. And, perhaps more importantly, people cannot live up to expectations they don’t know have been set for them. They’re not mind readers, give them the guidance they need to be successful and you’ll both be happier.
According to Steven Covey’s classic work, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, delegation can be broken into five different levels of initiative a team member can take in order to complete a project: (1) Wait until told, (2) Ask, (3) Recommend, (4) Do it, and report immediately and (5) Do it, and report routinely.
So, what level should you establish with your team when setting up a delegation?
It’s important for you to set clear expectations on how much autonomy a team member has for a certain project or task – and the level of initiative the team member can exercise. Should you provide explicit direction on how and when a task should be completed? Or, would it be better to empower a team member to anticipate needs and carry out a solution on their own? Maybe somewhere in between?
Generally, empowered team members are equipped to make more decisions on their own, and their ability to effectively make those decisions depends largely on the training and mentoring that you’ve provided up to that point.
If the project is complex or you’re new to delegating, you may want to provide more direction early on so that team members can learn how to approach projects or problems under your guidance. As team members gain more confidence, they’ll also gain more autonomy.
When laying out a project, provide clear deadlines and discuss the big picture of what you’re trying to accomplish, how their role in the project will help, and what skills they’ll be developing.
No. 4: Check for understanding.
Just like when you’re training your team, it’s essential that you know team members understand the goal of the project.
You could give the same set of instructions to four team members and each could come away with a different understanding of the task, so you don’t want to leave the results to chance. But beware of asking the dreaded question “do you understand?”
Instead, ask them to recap their understanding of the tasks, goals, timelines, and status updates you have agreed upon so that you clear up misconceptions before they start.
No. 5: Trust your team member to get the job done.
One of the hardest ideas for many managers to fully embrace is that you must trust your teammate to take the ball and run it down the field. To battle this, know that the clearer you are in delivering instructions, setting expectations, and checking for understanding before they go out on their own to complete the task, the better.
Try to uncover any obstacles or hesitations that may prevent a teammate from getting started by asking, “what questions do you have?” or “what do you need from me in order to get started on the project?” or even, “What do you think might prevent you from getting the project done by the deadline?”
Preset progress touch-points are essential so that you both will know when to check in. Complex projects without clear milestones can lead to procrastination when a team member becomes overwhelmed. Setting up milestones helps you keep things moving, check progress and provide necessary guidance while keeping you from micromanaging.
No. 6: Give them space to be creative.
Part of delegation means letting go of your way of doing things. Be open to other perspectives and ways team members seek to complete a project so they feel like you value their opinions and critical thinking abilities.
Think about the task at hand. Is there really just one way it can be completed, or are you just stuck on your way? Give people space to think creatively about how to approach a project, and you might be surprised to learn how well they do.
Even if you need to redirect them, you’re still fostering team member growth, which will only help the business in the long run.
No. 7: Don’t abuse the privilege of having extra help.
This may not be a popular stance, but having people on your team that are willing to give a helping hand is a privilege, not a right, so take care when delegating work. Delegation doesn’t mean pushing all the boring or unsavory tasks onto others or giving the best tasks to yourself or select groups. Take care not to “play favorites” or overload team members who are already struggling. This can negatively impact morale.
As a leader, you are judged by your actions, and, while it should go without saying, team members will be looking to make sure you’re doing your fair share. Don’t be afraid to get in the trenches with them to foster better teamwork. Also, be liberal giving recognition for their efforts throughout and at the completion of the project.
No. 8: Remember you’re not alone.
Last, if you’re fostering a healthy work environment, your team does want to help make big things happen at your facility. Don’t feel like you must do everything yourself and refrain from delegating at all. This can cause you to experience burnout and create dissension among your team if they feel your stress or you devolve into unproductive “I’m-the-only-one-who-works-here” behaviors.
When used effectively, delegation can help you share some of the burden to get more done while giving your team members crucial growth opportunities. Consideration, communication, and constructive feedback make it possible to maximize its potential in any business.
How do you approach delegating in your FEC? Tell us more in the comments or on Twitter.
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