Five steps to successful delegation

Oct 13, 2019

By Moira Dunne

Most business owners and managers are stretched and would love more time to dedicate to steering the business rather than the all-consuming, day-to-day tasks. Owners and managers need to step back and consider things from a high-level occasionally so they can make strategic decisions, but this can only be done through delegation.

Benefits for you and your team

Delegation is an essential leadership skill that allows you to do more than steer your business without the distraction of the day-to-day tasks; it also allows you to develop your team through opportunities to expand their experience, skills and knowledge. This will increase their engagement as they see a development path within your business.

Delegation can be difficult

So, if delegation is good for our business and our team, why don’t we delegate all the time? Why do people avoid it?

First, it can be hard to let go of the work you have been doing for years. It can be hard to trust others to do things as well as you do. What you don’t see is that a fresh pair of eyes on a task can not only rejuvenate a project but can make processes more efficient, improving overall office performance.

Second, delegating tasks can initially slow things down as you need time to explain what needs to be done and how, and learning curves can take a while.

Five steps to successful delegation

Here are five ways to master the skill of delegation so you and your team can benefit from the experience without losing much time or productivity.

Match the task to the person

Pick the right job for the right member of your team. Consider their current knowledge and skill level. Don’t overwhelm them with a task that may be too difficult. Break difficult tasks down into stages and progress one stage at a time.

Consider people’s preferences: are they more creative or analytical? If you have the flexibility, ask people to work on the tasks that will motivate them best.

Provide clear guidance

It is crucial to communicate the essential information required to complete a piece of work. Remember, the steps involved may be evident to you but not to others who are new to the task. Break the instructions down into steps, describing the process flow from the start of the job to completion.

By doing this, you are starting to document your key business processes.

Let it go

Once you have provided instruction, it is vital to give the person space to do the work on their own. Be available for questions but don’t let this become a dependency. Encourage the person to try to work things out themselves before asking you.

Check-in frequently

As you encourage independence, you want to keep an eye on progress and quality by checking-in regularly. This is essential so you can make sure that:

  • the work is being done correctly; and
  • the person is not stuck and reluctant to ask questions.

Frequent check-ins allow you to fix errors before they become a risk to the business.

Give praise and redirection

Finally, while it is important to praise the person so that they are motivated to keep developing and learning, it is also important to be honest if things are not done well. Discuss what further training or support is needed. Build on their good performance by stretching them further with the next task you delegate. View the learning as a process: each step or new task builds on the progress previously made.

Look for opportunities to give recognition for a job well done. Bring the team member to a client meeting or make sure their name goes on a report. This is a simple, low-cost gesture that can strengthen the trust levels between you and your team.

Pitfalls to avoid

Nothing is fool-proof, so if delegation doesn’t work the first time, you should stop and ask yourself if you ran into any of the following pitfalls:

  • Did you expect perfection straight away?
  • Did you expect the job to be done exactly as you do it?
  • Were you open to alternative ideas?
  • Did you resist the temptation to take back the task and do it yourself?

Delegation for growth

Delegating is an essential skill that is fundamental to the growth of your business. Mastering this skill helps you grow as a leader. It enables you to identify and standardise your key business processes, and this helps with training, quality control and continuous improvement.

Delegation also helps minimise business risk as you spread the workload and knowledge amongst your team, so the business is not solely dependent on you.

Moira Dunne is the Founder of beproductive.ie