How To Delegate Without Losing Control: Your Complete Guide
When your to-do list at work is a mile long, overwhelm is sure to follow. With only a set number of hours in each day, an overflowing plate can be paralyzing. Delegation is a tool that you can use to work through your task list, but that is often easier said than done. For some managers, delegation comes easily. But if you are a perfectionist, letting go of even minor tasks can be a struggle.
The power of delegation can be life-changing, however. Not only does it help you ensure you get through your task list, but it also empowers others. Some people believe delegation means you are shirking your duties, but if you are delegating with intent, it’s quite the opposite. Offloading tasks strategically lets your employees use their best skills and gives them an opportunity to shine. You also give employees the chance to learn and grow, as well.
Delegating work to employees can be scary because it’s easy to believe no one can do your tasks as well as you can, but with the right approach, it is possible to delegate without losing control.
What Is Delegation?
Delegation is the act of assigning the responsibility or authority for a task to someone else. Delegation isn’t about wielding power over others, it is really about time management. Effective delegation among teams increases the efficiency of that team and of the entire organization.
What Are The Benefits of Delegation In The Workplace?
There are more benefits of delegation than simply freeing up your own time, which is a major benefit in itself. But there are a host of other benefits of delegation, including:
Delegation Develops Your Team Members
Delegation involves cross-training, exposing team members to other areas of the business, and helping them sharpen and grow skills. This makes everyone on the team more valuable, and it also makes their jobs more interesting, engaging, and enjoyable.
Delegation Builds A Culture of Trust
One of the most overlooked benefits of delegation is that it helps to build trust. It shows you trust others with essential tasks, and when they complete those tasks well and on time, you trust those people more, as well. This helps improve the team culture and company culture and can facilitate stronger working relationships.
Delegation Improves Efficiency
Delegation makes better use of everyone’s time and ensures that the team gets more done overall. It gives idle people useful tasks to fill their day with, helps them become faster and more efficient in their work, and promotes time-management skills across the board.
Delegation Improves Team Flexibility
When you delegate tasks, it builds skills and knowledge. The more skills and knowledge each team member has, the better. This can reduce bottlenecks later on down the line and if someone is absent, there becomes a deep bench of people who can step up and cover for them, ensuring projects remain on schedule.
Why Do Managers Struggle To Delegate?
If you are saying to yourself, “I find it difficult to delegate,” you’re certainly not alone. Many managers struggle to delegate effectively for a host of reasons, including:
- Control issues: This is the most common reason people struggle to delegate. It doesn’t mean you are a control freak, however. It’s just natural to want to maintain control over the tasks and projects that fall under your set of responsibilities.
- Not understanding what can be delegated: This is another common delegation sticking point for managers. It can be challenging to know exactly which tasks can and should be delegated, so you choose to delegate nothing.
- Fear of hearing no: It is possible the person/people you ask for help say no. They may not have the time or resources, they may not have the skills to complete the task, or if they are a peer, they may think you don’t have the authority to assign them work. However, you lose nothing by asking and hearing the word “no.”
- Fear the person being delegated to will do a poor job: This is a natural fear as well, and there is always the chance that the person will miss the deadline or fail in some capacity. However, you cannot let this stand in the way of becoming better at delegation.
- Fear the person will do a better job: Conversely, you may also be afraid that the person you delegate to will actually do a better job than you and steal your thunder or take attention away from you.
- Thinking it will take longer to train someone else: This might actually be true. It may take longer to train someone else than to do the task yourself. But consider this – if the task is one that regularly repeats, once the employee knows what they are doing, they can take on that task again in the future, and they will improve each time.
Do You Know What To Delegate?
Effective delegation is all about knowing what to delegate. Your knee-jerk reaction might be to delegate things you simply don’t feel like doing, but that’s the least effective way to go about it. When you’re looking at your list of things that must be completed, you can find tasks that can be delegated to employees by considering:
- Tasks you aren’t good at doing: Do you struggle with a specific type of report? Does Excel make your palms sweat? Are you not great with crafting emails? Choose tasks that you consider to be weaknesses and choose someone who can and will do it better.
- Tasks that can be done by someone looking to learn: Do you know someone who is actively trying to build their skills in a new area? You can delegate tasks to them that help them practice that skill.
- Tasks that are time-consuming: You can break up time-consuming tasks into smaller bits and ask for help with some of those pieces.
- Tasks that are time-sensitive: When you simply do not have enough time in your day or week to get something done, you’ll need to ask for help and delegate some of the work.
Do You Know What Not To Delegate?
Knowing what not to delegate is just as important as knowing which tasks can and should be delegated. Here are some tasks that should probably not be delegated to others:
- Tasks that take too long to explain: If a task is not reoccurring, and it will take you two hours to explain how to do something that would take you thirty minutes, it’s not worth it to delegate it.
- Tasks that are confidential: Certain matters cannot be delegated to people who do not have the clearance to access confidential information or to people who tend to gossip.
- High-level decisions: High-level decisions like hiring decisions, appraisals, strategic decisions, purchasing decisions shouldn’t be delegated to employees. In some cases, the research may be delegated, but the decision should rest with the appropriate manager.
- Crisis management: When bad things happen, managers and leaders should step up. It should not be left to subordinates to expose themselves to risk.
- Boring tasks: Delegating boring tasks will not engage employees or keep them motivated. It will have the opposite effect. Keep boring tasks to yourself to keep morale high among your team.
Leverage The 7 Levels of Delegation Effectively
Delegation should not be approached with a willy-nilly attitude. You have to choose the person you delegate to wisely, and you also have to tailor your approach to that person in order for them to be receptive to the task and to have the right attitude when tackling the work.
The seven levels of delegation are approaches you can take to meet the individual where they are. Use each where appropriate to boost effectiveness and facilitate better outcomes.
- Do exactly what I say: This leaves no room for creativity or decision-making on the part of the employee. This means to do exactly what I have asked you to do and don’t deviate. I have already determined what I want you to do.
- Research: Here, you are asking employees to research or investigate but not provide any recommendation.
- Research and recommend: This gives the employee the power to provide analysis and recommendation, but you will handle the decision.
- Decide but wait for approval: This allows the employee to make a decision but still requires your approval before moving forward.
- Decide, act, and proceed unless I ask you not to: This gives employees the power to control the action and act autonomously but gives you the option to step in.
- Decide, act, and inform me of what you did: This provides autonomy while keeping you looped in if you need to intervene.
- Act independently: This provides full autonomy to the other person and demonstrates the utmost confidence in their abilities.
You will often find that you have to start with one of the lower-levels of delegation, but as trust is built over time, you can work your way up to level seven.
How To Monitor Delegated Tasks
Delegating without losing control does require you to monitor the work others are doing. If they are your peers, this can feel unnatural. The key is not to micromanage or to believe that you are micromanaging. Instead, keep in mind that follow-up is really the key to effective delegation. When you put someone else in charge of a task, you need to give them room to work, but it is within reason that the person doing the work should expect follow-up from you.
To effectively monitor delegated tasks, you must:
- Provide a clear definition of the task.
- Map out milestones and final deadlines in advance.
- Confirm that the person doing the work has the tools and capacity to complete it on time.
- Leverage collaboration tools like Slack, Google Docs, and Basecamp.
- Check-in at a pre-determined rate to review progress, answer questions, etc. If the task is a one-day task, this isn’t necessary. But if it is complex or an entire project, this step is essential.
- Respond immediately when the person doing the work asks you a question and help them get what they need when they need it.
- Say thank you regularly.
Is It Ok To Delegate To Peers?
No one thinks twice when a manager delegates downward. However, peer delegation can be a different story. It’s one thing to delegate to someone you supervise on a daily basis, it’s quite another to delegate to a peer. You may feel you don’t have the right to ask a peer to tackle your work, and depending on who you ask, they may also feel you don’t have the right to assign them work. And what if they become frustrated? How can you hold them accountable when they don’t report to you? How do you even approach them with a task that you want to delegate?
You can navigate the potential landmines of peer delegation by approaching the situation methodically:
- Talk to your boss first: Getting buy-in from your own manager is important when delegating to a peer. Explain why you would like to delegate the task and to whom you’d like to delegate it. When your peer knows that you have been empowered to ask for help, they will be less likely to provide resistance.
- When delegating to a peer, provide context: There is a reason why you are asking your peer for help, and most people are willing to help when they understand that “why.” Most people are willing to help or take on responsibilities if they understand the thinking behind it. Also, there might be reasons this peer can’t take on the task and you need to understand their situation, too. Open communication is key whenever delegating a task.
- Ask, don’t tell: You’ll be much more likely to get buy-in if you ask in the right way. Don’t just dump work on someone’s lap. Say you need help, ask if they have the capacity to help and get their permission before offloading tasks.
Effective Delegation Requires Hiring The Right Team
If you hired the right people, you should trust them with delegated work. Each person you hire should have specific strengths and a capacity for development. If you are hiring new team members, it’s important to look for people who have the desire to learn, the ability to be coached and the drive to accept tasks and work independently. If you are hiring new people this year, partner with BOS Staffing. With over 100 years of combined experience in temporary, temporary-to-hire and direct hire staffing, we can help you find the right fit. With a focus on office and professional, IT, call center and legal support, our experts will work efficiently and cost-effectively to help you build a productive team. Contact us today to learn more about our recipe for staffing and recruiting success.