One of the most important skills for a business leader to learn is effective delegation. By delegating tasks, business leaders show their team members that they trust them to get the job done, thus freeing up their own time to focus on more important tasks. However, delegation is not an entirely straightforward process, and many leaders are actually not reaping the benefits of assigning tasks to other people because they do not realize the mistakes they are making.
Delegation involves more than just issuing orders. Leaders must understand the steps involved to ensure that jobs get done on time and according to specifications. Read on for a list of these simple steps:
Determine what can be delegated.
While many tasks can and should be delegated to other employees, some things are better left for the leader to handle. For example, leaders should handle leadership tasks. This may sound basic, but it is not as obvious as it sounds. Leaders need to work directly with their team members, rather than relying on other team members to interact with them. Being a hands-on leader shows respect to one’s employees and builds loyalty.
By working directly with members of the team, leaders can see who needs development and direction. When leaders don’t work with or oversee their own team, they can’t see exactly how the team functions as a whole. Leaders should also avoid delegating tasks that relate to financial oversight. Leaders need to have a clear picture of the financial health of the company at all times. Putting someone else in charge can mean that the fire is uncovered too late to do anything about it.
Take time to prepare before delegating.
Leaders often see delegation as a way to clear something of their busy schedules. While this is true, assigning tasks at random can quickly end in disaster. Saving time in the long run means investing a little bit of time up front. Before delegating a task, leaders should think critically about who is most capable of handling the task. They should think about how busy their employees are, as well as their particular skillsets and interests.
Also, leaders need to take the time to outline the task clearly so that it can be communicated effectively and succinctly. If the leader only has a murky idea of what the task is, then the employee cannot be expected to have a better idea. The best leaders map out exactly what they want and let employees fill in the blanks. When communicating the task, leaders should account for timeline, budget, and context, as well as expectations about updates, including format and frequency.
Confirm understanding and commitment with employees.
Leaders often give employees a task and then walk away. Unfortunately, employees cannot read minds. Taking a few minutes to confirm an understanding with the employee can avoid a messy situation down the line. Leaders may want to have the employee ask about any issues or give their own outline of the task. Some people could find this step pedantic, but it really just ensures that everyone is on the same page and avoids the need to micromanage later on if the employee is not doing what was expected. Even asking a few questions about the most important points can confirm understanding.
The other side of the coin is making sure that employees feel comfortable completing the task with the resources available. Just as passing the baton is the most important part of a relay, having someone who wants a task leads to success. Leaders should ensure that the employee has similar goals and expectations concerning the task and that they can speak about the consequences for failing to deliver.
View delegation as an opportunity for mentorship.
Very rarely should a delegated task return to the leader’s plate. When this happens, it often means that the leader did not spend enough time preparing to delegate and then ensuring understanding. If employees arrive at an impasse with an assigned task, it does not mean that it is again the leader’s responsibility. Instead, leaders should look at this occurrence as a chance to mentor the employee on how to handle problems effectively. While doing so may require a bit of time for collaboration, the employee will be equipped to handle the problem, as well as similar ones, in the future. Again, a bit of time up front saves a lot of time in the long run.
Even when there is not a problem, leaders should see delegation as an opportunity for mentorship. Delegating tasks can push employees out of their comfort zone and challenge them to try new things. When delegating, leaders should ask that employees check in regularly. When leaders check in, it can seem as if they are micromanaging. However, having employees regularly check in can avoid bad surprises when the delivery date arrives, and it gives individuals the chance to voice concerns and get feedback and guidance from their leaders.