In a workplace, delegation involves transferring the responsibility for carrying out a specific task or activity from one person to another – usually, from a manager to an employee. It's actually one of the key project management skills that managers need. Luckily, in 2024, reliable project management tools like monday.com are on hand to help managers structure their employee's workflows.
However, despite effective delegation being one of the key aspects of almost any managerial role and ample tools on hand to assist with it, many managers still struggle to master the art of delegation, as well as the processes that help facilitate it.
In this guide, we cover how to delegate tasks effectively, what tasks should and shouldn't be delegated, and discuss some of the common struggles that managers face when making workflow management decisions.
What Is Delegation and Why Is It Important?
Delegation is the process of entrusting someone else to complete a task on your behalf. In a workplace, managers will delegate tasks to the employees they manage. Deciding which employees should be assigned to what tasks is a central component of the average manager’s week.
Delegation is important because, in the vast majority of cases, one person cannot complete a team’s worth of work or an entire project alone. Effective delegation leaves managers with more time to tackle high priority duties, dictate their team's strategy, and plan employee progression pathways.
Effective delegation also involves ensuring that people are working on tasks that suit their strengths, and that all team members have sufficient guidance and resources at their disposal to complete the tasks they’ve been assigned.
When should a manager delegate?
Broadly, a manager should be delegating a task when:
- They don’t have enough time to complete the task
- It presents a chance to upskill a specific employee
- An employee is better suited to complete the task
- Something more important has come up unexpectedly
- Two equally important tasks need to be completed quickly
- They want to show trust, leadership, and foster collaboration
This isn't an exhaustive list, but you'll find that most delegation decisions usually occur due to one of the above causes.
When should a manager avoid delegating?
Remember, a manager should not always delegate. There are some tasks that are either too complex or too sensitive to hand out to other team members, and could be inappropriate to assign to someone in a junior role.
For example, if you need specific training to complete a certain task, or it's a job that requires the use of a complex software tool, it wouldn’t be a good idea to delegate this task to an employee who hasn't been given the opportunity to complete the required training.
It would also be unwise for a manager to send a junior member of their team to report to the company’s board of directors and answer questions about team strategy, which is something they’ve had no input into creating and aren't responsible for implementing.
Additionally, managers shouldn't be delegating tasks that involve sensitive information about other employees or relate to confidential workplace procedures. It would be inappropriate to ask one employee you manage to discipline another colleague you manage, for instance.
The Benefits of Delegation
When a manager delegates well, their team reaps the rewards. While effective delegation can increase a business's revenue by up to 33%, some of the main benefits of delegation you'll experience in your day-to-day work life include:
- Building trust within your team: Asking an employee to complete an important task shows that you trust them, which can be motivating and help strengthen relationships.
- Promoting collaboration: Clever, calculated delegation is a key component of workplaces where people with interlocking priorities work together.
- Learning about your team's strengths: Delegating tasks will provide you with insight into areas that different members of your team excel in, which you can use to your advantage in the future.
- Saving time: If a member of your team can carry out a task, then you can get on with more important activities.
- Improved efficiency: Having a working delegation process, and staff members willing to carry out tasks you set them, will make your team nimble and ready to capitalize on opportunities quickly.
Studies also show that delegation strategies can prevent burnout and reduce stress on managers that utilize it in an effective manner.
How To Delegate Tasks Effectively: 10 Simple Tips
Next, we’ll look at 10 tips you can use in your workplace to ensure you’re delegating effectively.
1. Identifying tasks you can delegate
The first step to delegating tasks effectively is deciding which ones you can feasibly delegate. Being realistic is important because some tasks just can’t be delegated, and identifying them is equally as important. You may want to incorporate the tasks you plan to delegate into a project premortem session, for instance, so everyone knows what you'd like them to do.
2. Understand the strengths of your team
Ensuring you’re delegating tasks that chime well with an individual's strengths will culminate in better results.
For example, it's probably a good idea to pick your most IT-proficient team member to import all of your team’s tasks into a project management software tool. Assigning people tasks that complement their skills and interests can be motivating and assuring.
If you delegate complex tasks to people without much relevant experience, it's unlikely they'll be completed to the standard you expect.
3. Communicate the benefits of completing specific tasks
In some situations, it might be necessary for you to delegate a task that’s come up because you’re extremely busy. However, if everyone on your team is equally as busy, justifying your actions can be tricky.
If this is the case, and you have to assign it to a member of your team, then clearly explain the benefits of completing the task to the person you've delegated it to. This will ensure minor pushback, and perhaps better commitment to the task in question.
4. Demand oversight, but allow employees to make their own judgments
When delegating, you must set up processes that will guarantee oversight of the tasks your team are working on. It’s also important to clarify what each team member will be accountable for in terms of deliverables, and when you'll be checking in to see how things are going.
However, you must allow employees sufficient space to complete the tasks you’ve assigned them, and ensure that they feel empowered to solve problems without your assistance. Delegating responsibility for a task to an employee and then holding their hand through the entire process is not delegation.
5. Communicate your priorities clearly
Communicating your priorities is incredibly important because this will ensure your team makes independent judgments that align closely with how you want tasks to be executed.
In a nutshell, the more you communicate, the less you'll have to worry about correcting mistakes. Ensuring you’re communicating effectively when delegating will make it easier to let go and trust your team members to carry out tasks.
6. Provide instruction and clarify timelines
Much like the previous tip, providing as much guidance and instruction as possible will save you time in the long run because it will decrease the chance that someone you’ve delegated work to will stray from the brief, make a mistake, or miss a deadline.
Effective instructions will also include (on a task-by-task basis) deadlines, expectations, objectives, and goals, so there’s a clear understanding of the project timeline and how success will be measured.
7. Maintain an open dialogue with your colleagues
It is strongly advised to let your employees know they can always check back in with you if they're unsure of of something about the delegated task. Your team shouldn't feel worried or have any uncertainty around asking for more information or resources to carry out the tasks you’ve set for them.
In most workplaces, this kind of open dialogue can be facilitated with a mixture of group and one-to-one meetings. Additionally, making sure staff are aware of the times of day when you're usually able to have a quick chat or answer a question can be beneficial.
8. Monitor progress
Delegating tasks isn’t a single action, it’s a continuous process. You should never simply delegate a task (especially a large, complex one) and then forget about it – or the employee assigned to complete it – until deadline day.
Checking in and monitoring the progress of the work you assign to others is crucial. Part of the reason why project management software programs like ClickUp are so popular is the variety of ways you can view project progress and the status of tasks. Thanks to the clarity they bring, there's no need to breathe down your employees' necks with a constant stream of messages.
Monitoring progress is much easier if you’re maintaining an open dialogue with employees, which means they'll be more likely to come to you with any crucial updates or issues they’ve run into.
9. Review your decisions to delegate
Reviewing the decisions you make is key in every role – regardless of whether you're delegating or not. It’s the only way to ensure that you repeat the things that went well and avoid mistakes. Scrum masters might want to do this at the end of every sprint, whereas managers working on longer-term projects may hold review sessions less frequently.
Reviewing the tasks you’ve delegated could involve reviewing the output, as well as your decision-making when it came to assigning them. Did you pick the right person for the task? Were your explanations clear enough? These are the sort of questions that you should be asking.
10. Celebrate successes
Celebrating incremental success is a key part of ensuring that is continues beyond the project you're currently working on. It's a good idea to note what went well, and highlight when a team member performed exceptionally on a task you delegated.
Why Do People Struggle With Delegating?
The core reason why some managers struggle with delegating is relinquishing control over tasks that they’re ultimately still accountable for.
When you delegate, you hand over responsibility for the execution of a task to an employee. However, as you’re the manager, you’ll still be held accountable for its success or failure. This means that delegating isn't always a comfortable experience.
Another reason people struggle with delegating is a lack of team trust. Some people take the “if you want a job done well, do it yourself” mantra very seriously, and simply don’t trust others to carry it out in the way they want it to be done. Other managers may not feel they're capable of accurately articulating what needs to be done.
In addition to this, some managers often struggle to delegate because they simply don’t know how to. In some industries, managerial roles become so complex that their occupants struggle to decide which bits of their role can be appropriately delegated. As we've discussed, many aspects of an average manager's job can't be delegated, and this can cause managers to believe that none of the tasks they have in their pipeline can be delegated.
A final (and somewhat ironic) reason why managers struggle to delegate is a perceived lack of time. We know what you’re thinking – delegating tasks saves time. You're not wrong, but some managers feel like they don’t have enough time to create the processes that would allow them to delegate in the first place, which stops them from doing it at all.
Effective Delegation: Summary
However, as we’ve said already, delegating tasks in an effective manner doesn’t stop after handing over the assignment – it’s a process that continues with oversight, dialogue, and reflections on successes and failures.
Knowing exactly what tasks to pass on to employees isn’t always straightforward. Ensuring your process includes the key elements of effective delegation will put you on the right track, while utilizing tools like project management software can make the whole process smoother and clearer, from start to finish.
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