Top 5 Tips: The Art of Delegation

By Brent Szalay

As the saying goes, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. While the terminology could do with a 21st century update, the notion of teaching skills for long-term benefit remains relevant not just to the modern individual, but to modern business.

One of the best ways to teach team members the skills needed to foster your business’ success is through the art of delegation.

But delegation involves more than simply assigning tasks to employees. It requires time, energy, patience and trust in your employees to foster their development to eventually free up managers’ time, to give employees a sense of autonomy and ultimately, to create the next generation of leaders in your organisation.

 

In an age where managers are expected to wear so many hats, strategic delegation is a crucial skill worth mastering. Here are our top 5 tips to the art of delegation.

  1. Start with the right mindset

Many managers struggle with delegating work for a whole host of reasons.

They may feel they can do the job themselves in the time it takes to brief an employee; may lack confidence in their employees’ skillset; want to retain a sense of control over their business; or may harbour guilt in adding to their team’s workload.

The first step towards successful delegation is to approach it with an investment mindset. These fears may be valid, but delegation is about taking the time to invest in your employees’ development now to save you time and energy in the long-term so managers can focus on broader, more strategic matters.

  1. Know what to delegate

Consider where your time as a manager could best be spent and which tasks can be outsourced. While certain duties like personnel matters or broader business strategy may need to stay on your docket, you might be surprised how many other day-to-day activities can be transferred to your team. Take the time to write down the different areas of your business, the projects associated with those areas and the tasks needed to accomplish those projects.

  1. Play to your team members’ strengths

Once you’ve identified the tasks to be done, consider the best person for the job.

Delegation isn’t about simply assigning work to whoever is free. It requires an understanding of your team members’ strengths and weaknesses and an assessment of their capabilities. Consider who has shown an interest in what area and which tasks align with an employees’ goals to find a candidate that’s not only capable of the job but wanting to take ownership.

  1. Clearly communicate your expectations

Clear instructions are crucial to efficient delegation. At a minimum, communicate:

  • The desired outcome;
  • Steps required to achieve the deliverables;
  • Any mid-task checkpoints (to ensure the delegate is on the right track);
  • Timing;
  • The context of the task (how will it contribute to the organisation, so your delegate isn’t working in a vacuum);
  • Any end-of-task feedback (what they did well, where they could improve for next time).
  1. Create the right environment

Delegation shouldn’t be a matter of “set and forget”. Particularly while your team are still learning, make yourself available and approachable to answer any questions and demonstrate your commitment to a culture of trust, patience, and support.

Mistakes will likely be made. Accept the blunders and help team learn from them. Encourage your employees to first consider the solution rather than asking you to “fix” the problem. Invite their suggestions, explore what they might have done differently, and capitalise on the growth opportunity in a judgment-free zone.

 

Mastering the art of delegation won’t be an overnight success. It’s a skill that takes time to develop, just like your employees, but when done well, is an invaluable investment not only in your business and team, but yourself.

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