One of the co-workers I’ve most liked and respected in my career is a hardworking woman who is full of great ideas and ambition and takes a lot of pride in her work. She is someone who you can tell is going to do great things during the span of her career.
That’s why one day, during a particularly stressful week, I was surprised to hear her say that she has a hard time delegating assignments. At a time when she needed to let go of a few tasks so that she could focus on her high priority to-dos, she couldn’t. Her words “I just can’t trust … or maybe trust is the wrong word … I just can’t seem to let assignments go and believe that they’ll get done correctly.” In other words, “If I want something done right, I have to do it myself.”
In my mind, I was thinking that someone who has big-picture thinking capability like she does shouldn’t be caught up in the minutiae of daily office work. Her natural ability to lead and strategize and innovate should be taking top bill. But like her, many supervisors out there really struggle when it comes to delegation, and trust—or lack there of—was indeed the right word for her to use.
Building up that trust in your employees is no easy feat. It’s hard to let go, and especially when you are a new supervisor, it’s difficult to risk failure by putting a project in the hands of someone who hasn’t proven him- or herself to you yet. But with every task you delegate, you offer an employee a valuable learning opportunity—and you free up your time to focus on your goals. Follow these tips to effectively delegate tasks to employees:
- Assign the right task to the right person. Ask yourself these questions when you are planning to delegate work:
- Who has the skills and experience?
- Who has the time?
- Whose workload can handle additional assignments?
- Who has expressed interest in this type of work? In taking on more work?
- Who needs a challenge or change?
- Who deserves a growth or advancement opportunity?
- Delegate, don’t dump. Don’t just hand off the assignments you hate doing—or simple menial assignments that you feel are beneath you. Offer rewarding, meaningful assignments that will work toward meeting your goals and support the vision. Those assignments should offer learning and growth opportunities to employees.
- Develop everyone in your group. Delegating assignments to only your top performers will breed resentment among other employees. Offer assignments to all employees to increase their knowledge and skills.
- Don’t micromanage. You can’t dictate how they execute the project. Make the assignment, and then give them the freedom to complete the work as they see fit—as long as the results are the same.
- Ensure that they have all the resources they need to succeed. That means providing adequate directions, information, training, time manpower and equipment.
- Hold them accountable. Make them understand that they are responsible for the outcome, and that the success or failure of a project is on their shoulders. However, do let them know that you are available to support them if they need it.
What task did you have the hardest time delegating to an employee? What was the outcome?