Delegation might seem like a topic only select leaders should care about. Perhaps, that was once true. However, as the MIT Sloan Management Review points out in this article, times are changing. Automation has eliminated a lot of rote tasks in the workplace, which means more employees are working creatively in teams. If most of us are involved in leadership and collaboration on a regular basis, then all of us should know how to delegate. Before we get there, though, let’s consider why this skill is so important.
Delegate to Reap Rewards
The benefits of learning to delegate effectively are huge. According to SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, organizations, managers, and employees all do better when delegation works. First, multiple individuals or teams working towards the same goal at once obviously speeds up progress overall. That’s good for an organization. At the same time, when managers let other employees handle some tasks, they can turn their attention to more strategic pursuits. This lets them do more of the work they excel at. Meanwhile, employees who are entrusted with tasks win big too. They know they’re trusted by their leadership, first off. Plus, they get new opportunities for professional development. This makes delegation seem like an obvious win-win-win.
This HBR article notes that delegating well means your priorities can advance even in your absence. And even when a manager is present, more of their time can be spent on leadership. This includes providing feedback for their employees and coordinating necessary approvals. Finally, as the Sloan Management Review argues here, you can delegate to eliminate wasted time. If a leader is involved in every part of every project, teams will constantly need to update them on minute details. However, when a leader has delegated responsibility well, teams feel empowered to work on their own. They’ll bring big questions or key points to the manager, of course. But that manager won’t have to micromanage every single detail.
What’s Holding Leaders Back
It sounds like leaders would have every reason to delegate… and often. So why don’t more of us do this? This ultimate guide to delegating from Forbes has some answers from a psychology perspective. For instance, many of us are afraid of burdening others unfairly. Besides, we may have anxiety about making mistakes. (By the way, we shouldn’t. Read this post on failure and growth to brush up on the power of the growth mindset.) And oftentimes, leaders fear that delegating will make them seem like they’re not capable of doing the work themselves. That thought can really frighten someone struggling with impostor phenomenon, a topic I covered in this previous post.
On a practical note, it may just seem inefficient to delegate. According to SHRM’s article, it can take so much time to delegate a task that it just becomes faster to do it yourself. By the way, this is why the right productivity software makes all the difference. Using a tool like Pyrus to manage your organization’s workflows can break down that barrier to delegating effectively. More on that later, though.
Finally, according to MIT’s Sloan Management Review, some leaders believe that to delegate is to stifle creativity. Think about it. If you’re just telling people what to do, when will they get the chance to come up with new strategies and solutions? The key to overcoming this particular barrier is to shift how you understand delegation.
So are these thoughts and fears holding you back?
Pointing the Finger at Yourself
In her ultimate guide to delegating, executive coach Melody Wilding provides some ideas for how to evaluate your own effectiveness with delegating. Ask yourself some key questions to assess whether you need to make changes. For instance, do you spend more time at work reacting or working proactively? If you’re primarily reactive, that may mean you need to delegate more. Then consider: at the end of the workday, are you able to unplug, or do you feel the need to keep going? If you feel like you can’t take time away from a project, you probably haven’t delegated enough. This is tied in with another indicator: stress. As I described in this previous post, workplace stress can hold you back in many ways. If you’re taking on too much of the work yourself, you run the risk of burning out. Finally, listen to your employees. Are they asking for more learning and professional development opportunities? That’s a good sign that you owe it to them to start delegating better.
How to Delegate Effectively
To ensure that you’re not falling into those common traps that leaders fear, follow this advice from HBR. Start by making two lists. In one, order your workplace projects according to priority. Where do you want to spend your time to make an impact? Then, track how you actually spend your time at work for a week. Order your second list according to how much time you’re actually investing into each priority. See any misalignment? Target that area of your work as a candidate for delegation.
When you do take the step of assigning a task to another team member, have a conversation about it. Provide context so you’re on the same page about the importance of this task. Explain why you’ve chosen this specific person for the role, too. If you can draw a clear connection between that individual’s skills, experience, and/or professional goals and this project, you’ll increase their level of investment significantly.
Afterwards, loop that person into the ongoing conversation. SHRM advises that leaders hold off on defining the desired outcome alone. Instead, collaborate to set realistic goals. For tips on assigning deadlines, check out last month’s blog on this topic. After that, stay in the know about projects, but stay hands off. Decide in advance how frequently you’ll monitor progress and provide feedback, but don’t micromanage. After all, that would defeat the purpose.
As your employees work on projects, the best way you can participate is by staying humble and grateful. That advice comes from this Fast Company article. As I described here, humility can give you a big advantage in the workplace. Ask questions of the teams assigned to various projects, and learn from what they’re doing. And when they succeed, recognize their accomplishments! A gratitude attitude goes a long way at work.
Pyrus: The Productivity Software That Sets You Up for Success
Are you wondering if there’s a tool out there that can make all this easier? Fortunately, there is! It’s called Pyrus. With this automated software, you can delegate tasks with ease. Because Pyrus automatically integrates communication with task management, it’s quick and easy to loop others into workplace conversations. You can add and remove assignees anytime, so delegating is simple. You can also stay subscribed to tasks where you’re not the primary assignee to monitor progress. Alternately, task assignees can just tag you when they need approval, and you can quickly respond from an array of options. This video basically breaks it down.
So if you’re struggling to delegate, make the switch to Pyrus. You’ll find it’s easier to delegate and boost your productivity with this simple, intuitive solution.