Ease Your Stress By Using Simple Delegation Skills

Jun 8, 2010
6 Min Read

Are you swamped? It's easy these days to get overloaded since so many organizations are trimming back and focusing on doing more with less. That doesn't mean you have to do it all. You might think you're effective at juggling a ton of tasks, keeping your projects straight with a board full of sticky notes that cite status and completion data. But the truth is you're probably not. And on top of that, if you're doing it all what are your team members doing?

To be an effective team leader, it's important you have strong delegation skills -- not only to save your sanity, but to achieve the goals of the organization and help grow your team members' skills. But you can't jump on the delegation bandwagon without some proper planning no matter how much you have to do or you'll end up with a disaster. Heed these guidelines for delegating properly and you'll end up with less stress and plenty of successes under your belt.

First, let's be clear what delegation means so we're all on the same page. Wikipedia describes delegation as:

...the assignment of authority and responsibility to another person to carry out specific activities. However the person who delegated the work remains accountable for the outcome of the delegated work. Delegation empowers a subordinate to make decisions, i.e. it is a shift of decision-making authority from one organizational level to a lower one. Delegation, if properly done, is not abdication.

I agree with that definition except that delegation doesn't always have to occur from a higher level employee to a lower level one. It can occur laterally or you can even delegate up a level -- but those are topics for another day. Let's get a good handle on the delegation skill before you tackle those. :)

There are some real advantages to delegating properly. The biggest benefit is that it frees up your time so you can spend it doing what you should be doing -- leading your team. Also key is ensuring your team members are willing and able to take on tasks in your absence along with providing them with opportunities to stretch and grow.

Here's what you need to do.

  • Determine what to delegate -- You can't just grab something off your desk and give it to someone else to do. Take some time to define what you do. Start by making a list and then determine what you are willing to let go. You can delegate anything -- easy tasks, tough tasks, tasks you hate to do, tasks that are better suited to other people.
  • Pick the right team member for the job -- Assess the skills and abilities of each team member. What are their strengths? Are they willing to grow? Do they have the time to take on a new task and be successful accomplishing it?
  • Focus on outcomes, not steps -- None of your team members will do a task exactly as you would. But that's okay. What's important is for you to define the end result in clear terms and then get out of the way.
  • Delegate responsibility and authority -- Clearly explain the scope and boundaries for the task. Ensure that you have identified the who, what, when and why behind the work that is to be done. Give the person the authority to make decisions and do what is necessary to be successful.
  • Follow up -- This is probably the most important step in successful delegation. Don't just turn a team member loose with a new task. At the beginning set a follow up schedule so you can determine progress towards the goal and address any issues or road blocks that are getting in the way.

It may be tough at first to delegate tasks to others. You might have a tendency to want to micromanage by providing too much direction and review. It will be a delicate balancing act for you until you get used to it. But the benefits to you and your team members will be worth it.

What do you think? Have you tried making delegation an important part of your team leadership? Let's talk about it.

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