There’s more to effective delegation than just dumping your work onto someone else. Here’s how to do manage your workload efficiently and professionally.
Have you ever asked someone to help with something at work, but when they delivered the results you wondered if they were even speaking the same language?
Let me take a not-so-wild guess at how this scenario plays out for you: you like doing things yourself, but after working more than you should, you realize you just don’t have enough time in the day. As a result, you offer to give someone else in your department a chance to step up. Even if it’s against your better judgment, you delegate work to someone who may not have as much knowledge or experience as you to do the work the way you normally get it done.
Then, when this person comes back with a product that doesn’t meet what you were looking for, you chalk it up to that person not being ready to take on the job. As a result, you stop delegating until your workload overwhelms you again… and the cycle repeats itself.
The art of delegation
There’s good news and bad news about this cycle. The bad news is if you’re not getting what you need, the problem sits squarely on your shoulders — not theirs. The good news is you can break free from this cycle by always following these four steps when considering whether or not to delegate a task: (Click here to tweet this list.)
1. Choose the right task to delegate
Let’s face it: not every task can be delegated. If your workload requires historical background knowledge or subjective interpretation, you may want to keep this project for yourself. However, you should consider delegating recurring tasks. While you’ll invest time up front, you’ll only reap the benefits after that. Consider it the gift that keeps on giving.
2. Choose the right person for the job
One of my career coaches once told me you your teams are the most productive when you play to their strengths — not harping on where they need development. In light of this, you must consider the skills of people available before delegating. If you know you have someone on the team who makes great decks, don’t give that person a detailed spreadsheet analysis task when you’re pressed for time.
A sign of a great leader is when you can create opportunity for your team to develop new skills — and knowing when to push is a skill itself.
3. Plan ahead
You know what’s annoying? When someone sits on a task for a week — right up until the day of the deadline — before asking for help. It puts your team in a difficult position as they won’t have sufficient time to come up to speed, and it makes you look like a jerk because you’re stressed with no patience because of an imminent deadline. Don’t be that person.
Of course, last minute things come up, but most of us could benefit from spending a little more time planning, including considering who could help us with a project, before we dive into execution mode.
4. Explain your expectations in detail
You know the keyword in that header? Detail. If you fail to paint a clear picture of your vision, no can’t get angry at a colleague for exercising a bit of creative license and defining their own.
5. Provide an example of the finished product
Impersonation is the highest form of flattery, so why not give your team the opportunity to flatter you? Show a real example of the work you want done so the person helping you can copy it. This is critical as details about conceptual projects often become lost in translation.
What do you do if you don’t have a finished product available to share? You hand over the next best thing: a rough draft, picture, or drawing to illustrate what you want the result to look like. This will go a long way to making sure your vision aligns on the expected output.
Combine all of these five steps and you should never face another case of delegation disappointment again.
Eric Butts is a Management Consultant, MBA and CPA. By day he solves complex business problems for some of the world’s most well-known brands, and by night he teaches others how to carve out successful careers in the business world. Follow him @EButtsCPA.