Updated: Feb 27
Delegating is crucial to being an effective leader, but it’s not always easy for people to do. If delegating doesn’t come naturally to you, or if you just want to improve your skills, here’s seven things to keep in mind and practice.
1. Focus on Your Strengths. It’s a myth that the leader of an organization or group needs to be good at everything. The time you spend trying to do things that aren’t in your wheelhouse would be better spent focusing on your strengths and developing your team. Invest in strengths – yours, your managers, and your employees. Once you know that, you can reassign tasks so the best person is responsible for them. It will increase you and your team’s productivity and decrease frustration.
2. Stay Focused on the Big Picture. People often get promoted because they’re good at specific areas of their job, so when they get into their new role they focus on those things because it’s what they’re good at. After all, that’s what got them promoted, right? But leading a team or organization isn’t about the daily grind, it’s about seeing the big picture and creating a plan for your team to get there. Look at what you’re doing and if 75% of your time isn’t being spend on the big picture, start delegating those tasks that other people can do to free you up to do the things that lead your team where you want to go.
3. Put the Super Back in Supervisor. Remember managing your employees IS your job. It’s easy to get lost in daily tasks and just assume your employees are going to perform like robots. When an employee situation comes up, we get frustrated and angry that we have to stop “our job” to get them back on track. It seems easier to put supervision on the back burner, but in the long run it’s not. Early in my career, if I thought there was a staff issue brewing I’d do my best to ignore it – hoping it would go away and I wouldn’t have to intervene. This rarely worked and caused way more problems than being on top of the issue. Delegate all the tasks you can and spend a good portion on managing what is most likely one of the biggest resources and expenses in your business – your staff.
4. Develop Your Team. People want to grow and develop their skills. We usually think of professional development in terms of conferences or classes, but if there are projects and tasks you can give your employees that will both get the job done AND help them learn new skills, why wouldn’t you? Again, it’s easy for you to spend time doing things that you’ve been doing forever because you know what to do and possibly you’re good at it, but if your time would be better used on other tasks (see #1, #2, and #3) then hand it off.
5. Increase Trust in Your Organization. If you’re doing everything yourself – even if people have asked if they can help – what you’re unintentionally telling your team is that you don’t trust them. That may not actually be true. It may have more to do with you then them, but it’s what if feels like on the outside. Keep expectations clear, including outcomes and timelines, then hand it off. It might not be the way you’d do it, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you know your team well enough, especially their strengths, then you’ll most likely get a better product. This also gets the task off your plate and lets the team know you trust them, which in turn will make them trust you more.
6. Think Long Term. When I’ve run into people with problems delegating in the past, one of the biggest excuses has always been “I’m too busy to show someone how to do it. It would take less time to just do it myself.” Then of course when they are less busy and have time to show someone, they think “well now I have time so why would I get someone else to do it.” Catch-22. Yes, the first time – or maybe the first few times – showing someone would have taken as long as doing it, but then you NEVER HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN whether you’re ridiculously busy or not.
7. Develop Your Strengths. Okay, so I already mentioned strengths earlier, but this is another important step. You don’t just need to find out what your and your team’s strengths are, you need to develop them. Some people don’t want to delegate because they’re less sure what to do as a leader but confident when it comes to those specific tasks. Sometimes it feels like if you take that away, everyone will realize you’re a fraud. When you invest in your strengths by developing them, you can adapt the things you’re naturally good at to the leadership position. The more confident you feel as a leader, the easier it will be to delegate.