Small Business Insights

Delegating Tasks: 6 Strategies to Work Smarter

There are only so many hours in a day, yet you still have to write that proposal, finish that presentation, review next quarter’s budget, proofread that document, and return those calls. It’s easy to fall into a rut of, “I don’t have time to explain this; I’ll just do it myself!” It might be quicker this one time, but when you’re doing it time and time again, it adds up. That’s where delegating tasks appropriately becomes critical.

Part of a manager’s job is to make sure things run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Be honest: do you really think “just doing it yourself” is the most efficient way to operate your department or company?

Delegating tasks can be a win-win for both the manager and the employee – an employee gets an opportunity to improve their skills and the manager gets to remove something from their plate so they can focus on more strategic priorities.

Getting over the Hump / Let It Goooo…

Delegation isn’t easy. There is a certain “letting go” of control that is definitely difficult (I hear your cries, fellow Type As). Is a delegated project done exactly how you would have done it yourself? No. But, does it accomplish the objective AND get done in time? Well, yeah… so, let it go. That’s step one.

Focus on the Good Stuff

There are many benefits to delegation. While a newbie delegator might feel like they’re “dumping” work on their team, their employees are probably hungry for the challenge and looking to hone their own skills. It’s important to remember that, especially for someone still learning, hands-on experience is the best teacher. And while you might have to give it a final polish, that’s usually much easier than starting from scratch yourself.

While your team is focusing on the day-to-day, you, dear manager, are free to focus on next month, next quarter, next year, and beyond! You’re responsible for the strategic vision (steering the ship); your team is responsible for keeping the ship moving. Once in awhile, you’ll need to man an oar. But if you never get up and look ahead, you might row into an iceberg.

Giving Feedback

Clear and objective feedback is key to to delegating tasks effectively. If you aren’t able to give feedback, you’ll end back up in the “I’ll do it myself” rut. While it may feel uncomfortable, people appreciate clear, specific input. Be polite, and offer genuine compliments where appropriate (avoid the “compliment sandwich” if it doesn’t set up naturally). If you really like the way someone on your team writes proposals, but their lack of attention to spelling drives you nuts, try approaching it like this: “I appreciate your help in writing proposals. Your writing is strong – you’re clear and concise and make compelling arguments. Be sure to proofread it before you send back to me, though. It would streamline the process for me to be the second set of eyes on any grammar and spelling issues rather than the first.”

Setting Expectations

Set clear expectations of goals, deadlines, and outcomes. Don’t make your team guess what you’re looking for – that isn’t fair. Be sure to allow extra time for back and forth, especially if it’s something the employee is new at. Asking for it back Thursday morning when you know your stakeholder needs it Thursday afternoon sets everyone up for failure.

Delegate the Right Things

You should never delegate tasks just to pass off something you don’t understand, or can’t do yourself. If you’re handing it off, you need to know what the “right” result looks like, and how you should get there.

This doesn’t apply to skills, necessarily. If you know that one of your team members is better at math or more detail-oriented than you are, it’s fine to let them manage your budget. You know know what the end result should be. It’s fine to let someone who has a better natural skill take it over. But if you have a project you aren’t sure how to tackle, the better approach would be to delegate some of your other work so that you can focus on solving the challenge at hand.

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