The Art of Delegation

Ah, Delegating. That beautiful art of handing tasks to your teammates (and sometimes even peers or managers) to enable both you and them to grow in your skills and roles.

Particularly for success-seekers and overachievers, delegating represents a laborious effort. We psychologically attach to the responsibility and perceived power of keeping it all to ourselves, or we want to maintain control to ensure it’s done “just right.”  However, neither of these mindframes aligns with the growth you desire for yourself that you’ve laid out in strategic and tactical plans over the last few weeks.

You can’t get stuck in the weeds and reach for the stars at the same time. (Tweet this.)

You need to delegate. Delegating makes space for you to focus on the tasks you need to focus on, so that you can grow and be fulfilled while also cultivating your teammates’ growth and exploration.

Before we get started, let’s get clear on what delegating is NOT before we get into what it is and how you do it.

It’s not about concentrating the power at the top (you) and siphoning off the tasks you don’t want to do to the ones who report to you.

Instead, delegation is about understanding your strengths and gifts, your team’s strengths and gifts and the finite resources among you (time and talent). Using this data, you then allocate the appropriate time and talent to tasks to advance the whole team in a concerted manner.

Wondering how to do this delegation thing? Here we go!

  1. Considering the plans you’ve made for yourself over the last few weeks, make a list of the day-to-day and larger or longer-term tasks that you’re currently facing at work.
  2. Put a star next to the ones that align with the path towards the next role you’ve identified in your strategic career plans and/or tactical career plans over the past few weeks.
  3. Organize the remaining tasks into immediate, medium and longer term deadlines, then categorize each to denote level of complexity.
  4. As you get ready to delegate, be sure you balance complexity, immediacy, and experience. For instance, giving a bunch of tasks that are due immediately, yet are quite complicated to the newest member of your team is highly likely to be unsuccessful delegation. They’ll be overwhelmed and possibly fail. ensuring no one is successful, least of all you.
  5. Consider the bandwidth each team member currently has, as well as his or her level of expertise and opportunities for growth.
  6. Map each task to each team member. Once you get going, this mental framework will become intuitive and you’ll know instinctively who gets which task.
  7. Keep in mind responsibilities to keep to yourself, specifically those that are confidential, related to giving positive or negative feedback, and specifically assigned to you by your own management.

After you’ve identified which tasks and responsibilities to delegate and to whom, you’ll need to notify the recipients of their new responsibilities, your expectations on overall objective, and next steps.

As with any relationship or shared goal, effective communication is key, and preparation, openness and collaboration are critical! How to message the delegated tasks to your team and keep both of you accountable is a big part of how to do delegation well.

Here are a few best practices for talking your team through their new responsibilities:

  1. Set up 1:1 meetings with each team mate and let them know why you’re sharing these responsibilities with them, focusing on the WIIFM, the What’s In It For Me (me = teammate). Outline the benefits to them as part of the conversation; see item #2.
  2. Share with them the potential for growth that these tasks represent, as well as the importance of the tasks to the overall success of the team.
  3. Be very clear about your expectations. Describe the attributes or skills you want them to exhibit during the management of these tasks, the level of autonomy you deem acceptable (lots of questions, few questions, etc.) and your desired outcome.
  4. Encourage your team member to take notes to refer to after the meeting has concluded, and offer to meet again in a few days to discuss any questions that may arise before the full transition of the task/responsibility from you to her/him.
  5. Check in with each teammate regarding progress and success metrics during weekly or bi-monthly 1:1’s.

Although you are held responsible for the success of your team, and therefore, the success of the execution of this task, you are also the leader responsible for leading your team as effectively as you can. It’s up to you to enable their growth and lay the foundation for their success and well-being.

To walk the line between these, keep in mind that being available and engaged while letting your teammate handle the task in his or her own way is a springboard for both of you.

Give them room to breathe and make mistakes, and offer coaching when needed. In doing so, both of you will grow in a supported environment, and you will cultivate loyalty, trust and transparency within the ranks. A win-win!

We’d love to hear how you delegate and how you’ve thrived in the space you’ve created by doing so. If you have stories to share or questions, leave them in the comments below! As always, if you feel a colleague or friend could use this food for thought, share this post with them!


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