Struggling to delegate tasks at work? We’ve got some tips to help you relinquish control and give your team a chance to shine.
Knowing how to delegate work is an important skill, especially for project managers or team leads. It can also be an effective way of training others on new skills because doing is often the best way of learning.
However, whether you’re newly promoted, starting a new project or just used to taking control of tasks yourself, delegating work can be a struggle.
How often have you gone to hand over a job, only to stop and think: “It’s faster if I just do it myself,” or “I don’t have time to train them up on that,” or “They won’t do it right”?
These are all possible red flags that suggest you may be struggling with relinquishing control. But delegating work not only helps others get involved in projects, gain a better understanding of things and helps them to upskill, it will also free up your time to focus on other areas of the project where your expertise may be more valuable.
It also means that if you fall ill or need to take holidays, you will know that everything is in good hands because your team will have had the time to learn each step from you.
Now that you know the signs that you struggle with delegation and the benefits it can bring if done successfully, let’s see how to get there.
Assess the tasks you have
Start by looking at all the tasks you have on your plate, whether it’s the jobs you need to hand over to lighten your own load or whether it’s just a big project that has several elements to it.
Which ones would you be able to delegate? For this, consider things like which tasks are high level or business critical, which ones require a lot of training compared to tasks that team members already have the skills to do, and which ones will free up the most time for you.
Consider the ramifications
Once you have a better handle on the tasks you’d ideally like to hand over, think about the pros and cons of what it will mean to delegate that work.
How time consuming will the training be for you? Is there a steep learning curve? Is it something there is time to re-do or remedy if a mistake is made? If it takes longer than expected, what effect will that have on the final result? But on the more positive side, how much time will it free up for you, will it add valuable skills to other team members and is it better suited to them?
These further questions will help you narrow down a more realistic plan for what can be delegated, to whom and when it can be done.
People who struggle to delegate will no doubt have trouble releasing the reins, even when solid tasks have been identified. With this in mind, consider all of the above questions and start with low-stakes options.
Hand over tasks that require less training, that are less time sensitive, that can be worked on in the background or that aren’t a major part of the project. This will help you as a manager become more comfortable with handing over bigger tasks.
Create a guide
One of the most important reasons to regularly delegate work is to ensure that there isn’t a black box of knowledge in your own head. It’s important that when you suddenly can’t be at work for a while that there is an easy way for your team to keep things ticking over without you.
So when it comes to delegating tasks, or even just working on your own jobs, start thinking about who could do them on days you’re not there. When you work through them, create a step-by-step guide where possible.
When you’re delegating work, create training guides as you go. This could be in the form of a recorded video for remote training, a screen-recording of a time when you completed the task from start to finish, or you can even delegate this to someone who is learning. Once they’ve watched you do it and have taken effective notes for themselves, writing that up into their own guide is a great way to help them solidify the information.
When handing over tasks, make sure your team knows that they can come to you with questions. Ask them which parts were challenging, find out if they figured out new ways of doing it that worked for them and be open to these approaches.
Everyone works differently and it’s important to remember that your way is not necessarily the only way to do things. Furthermore, if certain steps in the process seem complicated, reassess how this was explained. It’s also important to make sure your team understand why things are done a certain way. Knowing the purpose of certain tasks will help them be more effective.
Trust but verify
The voice in your head that tells you they will do it wrong is a sign that you may have some control issues with your work, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t right. Your employees may make mistakes when they start out on a new project and that’s OK because it’s the only way they learn.
This is not a reason to never delegate, but it is important to check their work in the early stages to make sure they’re on the right path. This way, you can steer them gently in the right direction without taking back control. There will come a time where you will no longer need to check every element of the work.
Give ownership over
Once you have delegated work, trained your team, checked their work and are satisfied that they have understood the tasks and are working on them successfully, it’s time to fully hand over the reins on those tasks.
Not only is it beneficial to give your team more control and responsibility over those jobs for their own upskilling and career progression needs, but giving them the credit and the ownership for those elements will give them more job satisfaction.
It will also help you as a manager to know that those areas can operate fully while you make room for other work.
10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.