September 21, 2022

Workplace Delegation Done Right: 6 Steps You NEED to Take

by Mike O'Neill

Delegation is an inherent part of working in any leadership position, and you're probably already doing it all the time without thinking much of it. However, it isn't always easy - and it isn't always easy to do effectively. If you aren't taking a strategic approach, you and your employees are missing out. 

That said, sometimes people in your shoes avoid delegation altogether, taking on work they can and should assign to other staff. Leaders fall into this pattern for all sorts of reasons.

Sometimes, things get "sticky," and doing something yourself might seem like a fair trade-off to avoid potential pitfalls. 

Or, perhaps a touch of perfectionism prevents you from fully trusting your employees? When you're in charge of maintaining operations and, in turn, your company's reputation, giving up control over specific tasks can be scary. 

I've been there. I managed large HR teams for years, and in doing so, I learned the importance of effective delegating first-hand. I saw how it empowered my team - boosting morale, fostering growth, and creating more balance. 

I've even taught other professionals how to improve their own delegation practices. 

With the right strategy, delegating can stop being something to fear and instead become something that reduces your stress - as it should be. Not to mention, you create space for the full range of benefits that doing so has to offer (there's more to it than getting work out of the way)! 

Read on to learn more about the 6 essential steps for delegating the right way.

Play to Employee Strengths and Goals

Delegating boasts numerous benefits, but only when you're remaining mindful during the process. You have to take the time to figure out what to delegate and to whom. Once you've figured out what you can delegate, it's easy to go in "blindly" when assigning that work. You might hand out the extra work in a way that seems fair, but that leaves little room for consideration of your team member's strengths and goals. 

Taking the time to be mindful of your team member's strengths transforms delegation into a multifaceted tool. In addition to taking some of the weight off your workload, you can simultaneously use it to create growth. 

  • Entrusting an employee with additional responsibility in an area aligned with their expressed goals enables them to strengthen those skills. 
  •  Providing team members with opportunities to refine their strengths sends the message that you're invested in their continued success, reducing feelings of stagnation and improving employee engagement. 
  • Your employees may have strengths or goals that resonate across various company components. Delegating tasks with this information in mind allows team members to gain the experience they want while promoting a more versatile workforce.

When you recognize a need to delegate, take the time to consider how doing so can benefit not just you but also your employees . If you haven't obtained information about your team member's goals, now is a great time to do so. If you're involved in the hiring process, you may want to consider reframing your interview questions to touch more on this subject. Touching on this from the start shows that you're genuinely invested in helping your employees advance their skills. 

Be Clear on the Expected Outcome

Generally, it's always best to avoid operating from a place of assumption. While you may think that you and an employee are on the same page, it's vital to go over all the details concerning your expectations surrounding a task—even the seemingly "obvious" ones. 

Ensuring a proper handoff goes a long way in keeping the task flowing smoothly. When employees have a clear idea of the assigned project, you'll find yourself spending less time going back to explain things. Having all the details in order creates space for employees to feel more confident when taking on new responsibilities. 

  • They may be more likely to accept new tasks from you in the future if they know that you are also doing your part in setting things up for success. 
  • Knowing that they can trust you to provide complete information builds a sense of camaraderie that can otherwise be hard to cultivate between the various levels of "hierarchy" in the workplace. 
  • Miscommunications can create space for mistakes that wouldn't otherwise arise. Knowing the details of your expectations gives your team members a fair shot at demonstrating their capacity to handle taking on more responsibility. 

Always ensure that you discuss any metrics you'll use to measure success ahead of time, including how much time you expect the project to take. 

Give the Proper Authority and Resources 

If you trust an employee to take on a project, do so confidently. Micromanaging sends a message that you doubt their capabilities. You need to be sure they have access to the necessary resources. 

Especially if the project requires information or a tool the employee cannot typically access. It's essential to balance displaying confidence in your team members with doing your part to set them up for success. 

While it may seem like a given, granting the proper authority and double-checking that team members can access resources is often an afterthought. Those in positions of power, with regular access to otherwise restricted materials, may forget to stop and think about how their employee’s access to tools differs. It can be frustrating if your team member doesn't have what they need - for you and them.

  • Your employee may presume that certain information is simply unavailable if you don't give them access to it ahead of time. They may opt to move forward with the project without having the critical information out of fear of asking a "stupid question" and wasting your time. 
  •  In a scenario like this, you'll likely have to go back to correct things or have the employee spend more time than planned on a task to make revisions.
  • An employee that could have done a fantastic job with access to the right resources may be reluctant to take on additional responsibilities in the future due to the struggles that arose from being underprepared. 

If you do not have the time to compile everything, ensure that your employees have the authority to do what is needed to access the necessary resources. Also, be sure to instruct them on how they can do so. As a  leader, they trust that you will set them up with what is needed to get the job done correctly. Thinking about these things ahead of time shows your employees that they're in good hands when trying out new tasks. 

Recognize that Failure is Sometimes Inevitable 

Often, those in positions of authority are hesitant to delegate when they should be doing so, and they feel that remaining in complete control of delicate tasks leaves less room for things to go awry. However, it's essential to hold space because roadblocks are sometimes unavoidable.

Allowing room for failure creates more space for growth. While it's true that a person who is used to doing a task is likely to have an easier time, things just go wrong every once in a while due to circumstances entirely out of their hands. You are not immune from this, and it's essential to recognize that your team members may also encounter events that lead to a failure that is no fault of their own. 

  • Sacrificing some of your perfectionism and letting go of some control enhances workplace culture.
  • It shows your team members that you're human. Demonstrating that you understand this also shows employees that they also get to be human and that you are not just viewing them as workhorses.
  • Recognizing that sometimes things don't go as planned is another excellent way to ensure that your team members feel secure in accepting new responsibilities. 

Take some time to reflect on how you've handled roadblocks to success in the past. It is sometimes necessary to reprimand team members for the poor handling of a task. With that in mind, try to be more overt in acknowledging that setbacks are not always someone's fault. When appropriate, demonstrate to your employees that you recognize this. It can go a long way in cutting through workplace tension, serving as a building block for a more pleasant environment overall. 

Get Comfortable With Offering Feedback 

It is essential to provide feedback during and after an employee has completed a new project. It's also important to recognize that feedback isn't just for when things go wrong. You need to give your team members a well-rounded overview, so they know what is working, too.

There's a common thread throughout this post - supporting team members in finding the confidence to take on unfamiliar tasks. Feedback throughout the process, from start to completion, plays a significant role in that. Those in leadership positions often offer feedback only after an employee has completed the task. While some feedback is better than none, it leads to missing out on opportunities to save time and energy. 

  • Offering feedback throughout the process enables you to catch mistakes while they are still small, allowing the employee to correct course and make quick alterations early on.
  • Regularly checking in throughout the process (be sure not to teeter over the edge into micromanaging) creates a dynamic that allows team members to feel like they can come to you with questions.
  • Offering well-rounded feedback is an opportunity to show your employees  that you support them. It demonstrates that you recognize their strengths and potential rather than just the areas that need improvement. 

Finding ways to be more personal with your feedback helps to build rapport. Building rapport naturally results in employees feeling like those in leadership positions are more approachable. If you aren't used to connecting to your team members in this way, now is the time to get comfortable with it. Try thinking back on the times you've offered past feedback. When running through those scenarios, consider how you could make some of that feedback more balanced. 

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

It can be easy to appear unappreciative, especially when overwhelmed with other tasks that require your attention. Those in management roles think that briefly acknowledging a job completion is enough, and this cavalier way of handling things doesn't do anything to show appreciation. When you delegate, you must honor an employee’s success in doing what you've asked. 

When employees are honored for their accomplishments, many perks follow. When those in charge fail to hold space for success properly, it creates room for bitterness in the workplace. Nobody wants to feel undervalued, especially after going above and beyond by trying out something outside of their original job description.  

  • When you take the time to point out a team member's strengths and accomplishments, it's more likely they will truly step up to the plate to give future projects their best efforts.
  •  Employees that feel appreciated are more likely to demonstrate loyalty. Working toward making your employees feel valued may reduce the likelihood of your team members leaving in search of other environments that do.
  • Positive reinforcement significantly reduces the resentment arising from tiresome, monotonous work days and may improve employee engagement. 

Take the time to thank your employees. While you don't have to celebrate or make a big show over an employee doing well, finding ways to express your appreciation is a must. Stop to think about whether or not you're hitting the mark with giving credit where credit is due. 

Looking for Personalized, Actionable Guidance? 

When you delegate tasks, it's the strategy behind what you're assigning that determines whether it's beneficial or if doing so becomes something that creates more work. 

That said, sometimes things get complicated- Even with the best strategy.

If you've found yourself struggling to navigate a complex set of circumstances, I'm here to help. 

Schedule a call today!

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