It’s Friday morning and your team is wrapping up a week’s worth of projects. It’s been busy, but you’ve pushed through and met a handful of competing deadlines. As you work to wrap up a final but urgent task, one of your employees stops by your office and mentions that they have the capacity to take on new work in case you’re in need of any support. You dismiss their request and send them away as you struggle to finish your work by the end of the day.

As a manager, your team is a reflection of your leadership. For this reason, you may find yourself shying away from assigning tasks to your employees when you lack faith in their ability to complete the work in a timely, effective manner. If you often find yourself thinking, “I can complete the task more quickly than I can explain it,” or “I don’t trust my employee to do the job as well as I can ‘,’ you may have a delegation conundrum. 

What does delegation in management really mean?

According to Lauren Landry, on behalf of the Harvard Business School, delegation in management refers to “the transfer of responsibility for specific tasks from one person to another.” By assigning manageable yet challenging tasks to individuals within their team, managers can use delegation as a tool to free up time to focus on high-value activities, while providing employees with learning and growth opportunities. 

Delegation is a key component of effective leadership. Successful leaders guide their teams to achieve both collective and individual goals. It’s your role to oversee your team’s projects, initiatives, and tasks, while providing expertise and consistent feedback. It’s not your job to hold back their career development by gatekeeping important projects to further your own success. 

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Why is delegation in management important? 

While necessary, delegation may be the hardest management skill to put into practice. A Gallup study showed that CEOs who excel in delegating generate 33% higher revenue than those who don’t. If you spend all your time working on projects that could have been delegated to your team, you’re likely sacrificing hours you could be using to yield the highest results for your organization. 

Leave your pride at the office door if you want a high-performing team. Learning to delegate will ensure your employees are well trained, feel valued, and are prepared for future leadership opportunities. 

8 tips to delegate efficiently

1 Decide which tasks are important for you to do

A manager’s job isn’t to produce an entire team’s worth of work each day. As a supervisor, you should be prepared to complete high-level tasks that require your management expertise and delegate the rest. A good rule of thumb is tasks that are repetitive, are time consuming, boost basic skills, or require specific skills your subordinates have should always be delegated. Remember that just because you’ve completed a specific task for years doesn’t mean it can’t be delegated now. You should be willing to adapt to new routines if doing so means saving time and optimizing productivity.

2 Find the right person for each job

You should know each of your employees’ strengths and goals. Perhaps your marketing team consists of one digital guru, one stellar writer, and one generalist who’s ready to tackle anything. Pick the individual on your team with the skill set needed to achieve your desired results. Be intentional. Ask your employees what skills they’re looking to improve and what goals they’re hoping to achieve in the near future. Strive to assign a diverse set of tasks to each individual, and watch your employees become proficient in new areas.

3 Communicate expectations 

The projects you pass on to your employees should come with clear instructions and context. By the end of the initial conversation, the employee should be able to identify your desired outcome, a timeline for the project you’ve delegated, how the task ties into your organization’s goals, and what metrics you’ll use to measure their work. Set up regular check-ins and let the employee know your preferred method of communication when they have questions or want to provide progress updates.

4 Provide the required resources 

Don’t set your employee up for an impossible task. Provide previous examples, templates, and outlines so they can get a feel for what you want the final product to look like. The first time you delegate a task, give the individual examples of what each step of the process could resemble. Fight the urge to micromanage by focusing on the desired end goal rather than controlling the entire process. The point of delegation is to redistribute work, not to add new tasks to your plate or to train a new employee only to have the responsibility shift back to you. 

5 Establish a time frame 

Remember that a task you’ve been doing for months or years may take a new employee significantly longer on their first attempt. Take this into consideration when assigning deadlines for new projects. If it’s an ongoing duty, determine review dates or schedule checkpoints that are realistic based on the amount of work you’ve delegated.

6 Provide training 

It may seem counterintuitive to delegate a task that requires training, but trust us, it will save you time in the long run. For example, if you spend an hour a week drafting a web analytics report, spending even a few hours showing your employee exactly how you’d like the task completed can save you three hours in that first month alone. Don’t get too frustrated when your employee misses a detail on their first try. Set up a time to chat about the task or touch base at your next one-on-one meeting. Give consistent feedback until the employee is a pro! 

7 Give clear feedback 

Don’t abandon the project altogether once you’ve delegated it. Good managers provide both positive and constructive feedback throughout the process. Recognize your employee when they complete a task well, and give pointers if there’s anything you believe they can improve upon. Foster an atmosphere of trust by giving the individual creative agency over abstract projects and allowing them to do the planning for more repetitive tasks. 

8 Be open to other ways of doing things 

Perhaps your employee is using a new digital tool to automate a task that you had previously spent copious amounts of time completing manually. Or maybe a different employee is completing the same task in a manner that’s less timely, but more detail oriented. Don’t be alarmed. Understand that individuals will have different ways of working through project challenges and getting results. So long as you receive the outcome you had hoped for, the steps along the way are less important. 

Reasons you’re having a hard time delegating 

Is the delegation debacle making you feel defeated? Here are a few reasons you may be having a difficult time assigning work to individuals on your team:

  • You’re a micromanager. Is your need to control every piece of work the team produces hindering your own productivity? It may be time to take a step back and reevaluate what work you should be completing versus what tasks you should be delegating. We promise you’ll feel better once you take the pressure off yourself and pass some of the work into your employees’ capable hands. 
  • You don’t trust your employees. If you lack trust in your team’s ability to complete a certain task, you should rethink your management style. As a supervisor, you’re responsible for developing your employees and ensuring they’re trained to complete a variety of projects. You likely hired members of your team based on their competence and experience, so working with them to get to your desired level of effectiveness needs to be a priority. 
  • You feel guilty for asking employees to help. We get it. Your team is busy and certain employees lack the capacity to take on extra work at times. Alas, avoiding delegation entirely isn’t the answer. Help your team prioritize their action items when needed and extend timelines when delegating an urgent task at the last minute. This will help you curb manager guilt and lessen your own stress.

Master the delegation situation

We’ve all been guilty of overburdening ourselves with work instead of passing it along to employees who could have been coached to complete it. In doing so, we harm our own productivity, our employee’s professional growth, and even our company’s success. Don’t be the manager that shuts their door during busy periods. Strive to create a culture of collaboration by mastering the delegation situation at work. Leave the door open, choose the right tasks for the right individuals, coach your employees throughout the process, and provide feedback as necessary. Your employees, your organization, and your work life will be better for it.