With people working from home, it is almost impossible to micro-manage your team. If you struggle with delegation, now is the time to learn, and fast! Investing one hour of effort can be paid back many times over and free your time to get on with what you do best. Your team feel engaged too.

Why delegate?

It can be difficult to delegate – you think you can do the job quicker and easier yourself, but you have to do it every time, over and over again. However, failing to delegate risks burnout for yourself, and frustration for the team if you micro-manage.

A manager can invest one hour of effort to produce ten or fifty or one hundred hours of output through effective delegation – once you’ve shown someone once or twice, and given them appropriate guidelines, they can repeat the task, over and over again.

Effective delegation frees you up to invest your time to achieving your personal goals and for the growth of the business.

Effective delegation gives the person taking on the task an opportunity to use their creative energies in deciding how to achieve the task, and an opportunity to grow through increased responsibility.

Delegation Styles

All too often, we see Gofer delegation. This is where the manager issues the instructions to the team member one at a time. The team member has no concept of how what they are doing fits into the bigger picture, or the overall aims of the business. How would you feel to be on the receiving end of this type of treatment? Would you feel trusted? Would you be engaged in the task at hand?

Stewardship delegation gives the person complete responsibility and accountability for getting the job done, it provides opportunities for the person to use their creative abilities, increase competence, and builds trust between manager and team member.

What shouldn’t you delegate?

This list may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people do delegate the following tasks …

  • Politically sensitive or confidential matters
  • Difficult customer negotiations
  • Bad news
  • Issues involving coaching or counselling re: performance
  • Disciplinary matters
  • Something that your supervisor asked you to personally handle.
Remember: you can delegate responsibility, but if you make someone responsible, they must be given appropriate authority – you cannot delegate your accountability.

What are the seven steps?

  • Communicate the desired results
  • Set the boundaries
  • Learn from failure
  • Make resources available
  • Define accountability
  • Set out the consequences
  • Say thankyou.

1. Communicate the Desired Results

If you want your team to take responsibility, and be engaged in the task, you need to define the task in terms of the results you want them to achieve, not the methods they are to use to achieve them. This allows them to be creative, and take the initiative. It gives them scope to go above and beyond what is expected of them.

The results need to be expressed clearly so there is no misunderstanding when the task has been completed – it may seem a bit of a cliché, but make them SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound and you won’t go far wrong.

To secure their long term commitment it's a good idea to include the context – how it fits into the vision or strategy for the future, and why you want it done.

2. Set the Boundaries

To save time (yours and theirs) let them know what they can and can’t do. The idea is to give them some guidelines to work to, without restricting their freedom too much. Have as few boundaries as possible, but make sure to include any “no-go” areas.

This is where you agree limits of authority, particularly when it comes to spending time or money. You will have the confidence that the task cannot get too far out of control, without being interrupted every five minutes for permission to do something.

3. Learn from Failure

Whilst freedom to choose how to tackle the problem is motivating, don’t let them go down rabbit-holes. Allow them to learn from your mistakes. Tell them how you have managed to get it wrong in the past, and what you have found doesn’t work.

Make sure you take this step before asking them how they are going to tackle the problem – there is nothing more de-motivating than “I tried that, it didn’t work”.

4. Make Resources Available

If they are going to have the freedom to choose how they carry out the task, they need the authority to draw on the resources they need. These can be human, financial, technical, or time. For a longer project, they may very well need training to be able to carry out some of the tasks. Time and effort invested at this stage will repay you in peace of mind, and ensure a quality result.

5. Define Accountability

How often do you want them to give you feedback? There is no right or wrong answer to this – it depends on the complexity of the task, the experience of the person carrying out the task, and your own confidence.

How should they present that information? Make it easy for them to get this right. Don’t waste their time or yours in putting together a report which doesn’t meet your needs.

We often think that people like to communicate the same way as we do, but we are all different – do you want the big picture or the detail? Do you want numbers, words, or pictures? Do you want them to email you, send you a report, or speak to you?

How will they know when the job is complete? Hopefully, if you have defined SMART objectives, this will be clear, but it is good to check that you have a shared understanding.

When, and how, are you going to review their performance on the job? People like to know how they are going to be measured, and what they are measured on becomes the thing they will focus on.

What are the Red Flags? These are the points at which you want them to shout for help. You don’t want them to go down dead-ends, and you don’t want them to waste time if they get stuck. It doesn’t mean you that you are going to take the project off them, just that you are made aware things are not going according to plan, what support they need from you, and what action they are taking to get things back on track.

6. Set out the Consequences

Consequences can be positive as well as negative.

Clearly, your team needs to be aware of the negative consequences of failure, both personally and for the business, but they also need to know what will happen if they do a good job. Will there be more opportunities to develop? More responsibility?

What will successful completion of the task mean for you? For the company?

7. Say Thank You!

No matter how big or small the task is, when they have achieved the desired result, show your appreciation. After all, while they have taken this task off you, they have allowed you to get on with some mind-blowing strategic stuff that will take the business forward!