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As a business grows or as you grow into the role of a manager, you must learn to delegate effectively. Only by fully utilising your team can you manage workloads, keep colleagues and clients happy and deliver both service and quality.
You can’t just rock up on a Monday and decide you don’t like a task, so you’re going to ask someone else to do it. You must plan carefully – both on an individual task basis and in the broader scope of categories of tasks – what to delegate and who to delegate to.
Firstly, do not delegate just because you don’t like a task – or worse, because someone has delegated the task to you but you don’t feel like it’s important. By passing around delegated tasks in this way, you can undermine your own authority, create resentment among colleagues and undermine your whole organisation’s culture. This will eventually lead to low team morale and a poorer and lower quality service as a result. If you overhear, ‘That’s not in my job description’ or ‘That’s your job’, these can be red flags that this process may already be occurring.
Another bad reason to delegate is because you don’t understand the task. It may be entirely appropriate to delegate this task but you need to find out more yourself first. Firstly, if you don’t understand the task then how do you know that there is a value to anyone in your organisation using time and resources on it? Secondly, if you don’t understand the task, how will you be able to give clear instructions when you delegate the task? Thirdly, if you don’t understand the task, how will you know that the task has been completed correctly from start to finish?
So, now we’ve covered some bad reasons to delegate, let’s look at some good reasons to delegate.
A good reason to delegate is because the person you’re choosing to delegate to has greater or more appropriate skills – for example, design work would be delegated to a designer rather than being undertaken by a project manager.
Another good reason to delegate is because the person you’re delegating to has the time or the correct resources. For example, perhaps there’s a query regarding the accounts but you’re due to be out of the office for the next few days. However, your colleague in the accounts department is both in the office and has the financial information available to hand. In this case, it’s best to delegate the task for the fastest response.
Stop and consider whether you’re being precious about the task. It’s hard for new managers and especially business owners to ‘let go’ of tasks they previously were responsible for. But, with the right training and support, there’s no reason why one of your staff members can’t take on the task and complete it just as well – if not better!
If there is a task that you are sure only you can do – perhaps it requires access to confidential information or secure access that only you have – then you need to make sure that you include this task in the planning of your days. This will more than likely mean you’ll need to delegate another, different task in order to make space in your schedule.
Firstly, only delegate to those who have the relevant skills and training to complete a task. A large part of this is being aware of the skill sets, experience and personalities in your team. Two people could look equally qualified on paper, but one would be better than the other to delegate to because of their inter-personal skills. If you want to delegate to someone who you feel is capable but who hasn’t yet been trained, take the time to train them thoroughly and empower them to complete the delegated task for you.
Secondly, only delegate to those who have time. Being aware of the workload and availability of your staff is important. You need to avoid delegating time-sensitive tasks to those who have booked annual leave. You should also avoid putting additional demands on staff who are already very busy; either redistribute some other existing tasks they’re completing or find someone else to delegate the task to. If you don’t, your best and busiest workers will produce lower quality work and potentially even burn out.
Thirdly, be clear about what you want doing, how you want it doing and by when. Those you’re delegating to must understand what the task involves – both what the end product or goal of the task is and how they should go about completing it. They must also be made aware of any milestones or deadlines so that they can prioritise their workload accordingly.
Finally, let them complete the task in peace! If you’ve followed all of the steps above, your knowledgeable, capable and trained colleague should be able to complete the task with no problems. Encourage them to ask you if they have any queries or concerns but don’t keep checking up on them; leave them to complete the task and bring it to you when they feel they have fully completed it.
Good delegation is using your people, your time and your resources with careful thought and planning. By doing this, you’ll complete tasks to a high standard and on time, helping you to reach your organisational goals and targets.
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