Updated: Jun 29
I think it’s safe to say we’ve all had experiences of managers ‘delegating’ something to us in a way that actually means offloading something they don’t want to do, on to our plate (whether we like it, it’s good for our development, in our job description or not).
It’s probably also safe to say that we’ve experienced asking someone to do something for us, to find out later that it hasn’t been done well... or at all.
All this can definitely leave a sour taste & one of two common beliefs about delegation:
People delegate as a cop-out for things they don’t want to do
Delegating isn’t worth the time it takes to explain something to someone, because you’ll end up having to do it yourself anyway
Both very fair & understandable points, based on experience & evidence that we’ve built around it - so I get it, but I’m going to give you the flip side. See if it changes your mind…
Delegating is good for us. It gives us experience in leadership, mentoring, it helps our communication skills, it builds our resilience & confidence to provide feedback, and by giving instructions & watching the results, it highlights our blind spots (things we do on autopilot or things we really should be thinking about earlier on).
It also frees up our time & attention to focus on other priorities or working on something that truly nobody else could do - allowing us to shine in our zone of genius!
Delegating is also good for the recipient. By giving somebody less experienced an opportunity to work on something outside of their day-to-day, you’re exposing them to tasks & activities that will stretch their ability or allow them to prove themselves.
In allowing somebody to step up, you’re sending a message of trust & confidence, of hope & motivation for them to excel. Even if the task itself seems mundane, you’re allowing them to step into a world they want to eventually move in to - so at the very least, you’re giving them a heads up!
One specific scenario when delegation is really key but often under-utilised, is when the task is something that you used to do, but don’t anymore.
Imagine you see your boss struggling with something that’s your absolute zone of genius. You’re just bursting to tell them you can help (& not that you’d say it but you also know for sure you can do a better job than they can, in half the time).
Now imagine if they actually brought it to you, recognising that very fact & acknowledged they know how much you’re capable of & asked for your help. What kind of opportunities does that bring you...how does it feel?
Turn your focus now to your workload & the team that supports you - if you used to be e.g. a project coordinator but now you’re a manager, or you were a manager but now you’re the team leader or director, consider what happens when a task or project lands on your plate that you know how to do (& let’s be honest, you kind of like the idea of doing again).
How often do you say “it will be easier if I just do this myself”?
That approach is not going to help you do your job better, & it’s not going to build a competent, trusting team around you.
Taking the “I’ll do it myself” approach is what’s keeping you stuck, surrounded by a team of people you don’t trust & who are probably feeling pretty frustrated with their own progress & job satisfaction too.
By delegating something that is someone else’s area of expertise, you’re telling them
“hey - I see you”.
When we delegate things that aren’t moving the needle for us but could be moving the needle for somebody else, it’s a win-win situation. You’ve cleared your plate to focus on the priority for your role & your progression, plus you’ve given somebody else a step on the ladder that will help them with theirs too.
But beware: delegate poorly & you’ll be setting yourself up to fail.
Delegating without much thought or time to see it through & you’ll continue to build evidence that it’s not a viable option (when actually it could be just what you need!)
Follow these 4 golden rules to set yourself & your team up for success!
Delegate to the right people - think first about who your options are. Do they have capacity, is this an appropriate opportunity for them, & do they have the right skills & attitude to do a great job for you?
Know what the process is & give them the information they need to succeed. Run through the steps yourself & pick out any blind spots (better yet, have the process as an SOP even if nobody else usually sees it, so you can avoid mistakes of your own & save time when handing over to someone else). If you do this properly the first time, you might not even need to do it again!
Communicate your expectations. What do you want to see - what are the signs of quality & correctness, when do you want to review it, then how & when are you going to check in to make sure things are on track or give feedback?
Don’t dump & run! You’re moving the production of the work off your plate, but the responsibility is still yours. You can free up 90% of the time it would have taken you, but protect that 10% to set yourself & your team up for success. Be available for questions, set reasonable deadlines & give helpful feedback to steer the delivery so nobody winds up disappointed.
You set the tone for your expectations when you give people the heads up that you’ll be reviewing & feeding back. In setting these boundaries you’re giving people a sense of accountability to deliver a higher quality of work, because they know what you’re expecting & that you’re there (& that you’re invested enough) to help them succeed.
In addition, when your team knows there are regular opportunities to step up & help you out that are worthwhile to them, their overall motivation & quality of work will improve in their bids to be the one chosen!
That means they’ll ask if they need to - which means you know you can get on with what you need to be doing without worrying!
Finally, use your time wisely - don’t delegate something off your plate & then procrastinate!
Shift that self-doubt or impostor syndrome guilt by making sure your own priorities are in order, so you have a firm rationale in your mind for why you’re delegating in the first place. Then, dedicate time to focus on those priorities, while allowing some time for support (so it doesn’t stress you out if questions do come your way).
When done correctly, delegation has the power to create huge motivation within a team, as well as driving up the quality of work and improving productivity. So why not use it?
Start creating a stand-out reputation for yourself & your team today by embracing these perspectives & implementing these tools for successful delegation.
If you're a new manager looking to set yourself (& your new team) up for wild success, what better solution than to work 1:1 with me to learn tools, insights & strategies that will help you create a warm, motivated, high performing team environment that you can all enjoy (& relax in!) - check out my coaching packages to find the option that will suit you best here