Free Your Mind: Use These Steps for Effective Delegating

“I can’t seem to get out from under this week; it seems like the minute I cross one thing off my task list, three more take its place!!”

A common problem uber-efficient women leaders have is knowing when to delegate, or in other words (as the popular cartoon princess once sang), let it go.

One aspect of leading is developing confidence in your team members enough to let your employees do the work; you’ve given them proper guidance and have led by example. Not to mention, you know you didn’t hire second-rate people.

So why do we still hesitate to delegate?

Get Over Delegation Hurdles

Sometimes there are good reasons why we don’t delegate. Knowing when you and you alone are supposed to carry the ball has made you an MVP in your business for good reason. However, knowing when to involve your team—and using an effective delegation playbook—will also contribute to your success.

Tara Powers, MS, CEO of Power Resource Center, says it takes training and a true understanding of the benefits delegating can offer before most supervisors and managers actually let go. “Often when leaders delegate they fail for several reasons: lack of planning, taking back the task because it appears easier to do it themselves, or concluding that they don’t have time to delegate,” she says.

Hurdle 1: I got this all by myself!

Sure, this is true some of the time, but it would be impossible all of the time. Trouble is, we sometimes convince ourselves that yes, we can do it all at once! This is the kind of thinking that leads to burnout.

How to delegate: Even if you hadn’t considered it before, think about the duties you know you MUST do yourself and separate the things that you don’t. For example, if your department is outlining a new marketing proposal, you’d have to handle the development of the budget, but you could delegate smaller tasks to members of your team.

Hurdle 2: Explaining what to do takes too much time.

It pays to periodically train staff in more advanced duties. Even if you didn’t get around to teaching a new task, decide the tasks that you can delegate for the future and start training one or two employees. The bonus: as soon as you train one employee in a new task, he or she can then train co-workers, saving you time.

How to delegate: Avoid delegating tasks you know might be too complicated to pick up in one sitting; you’re better off handling them yourself to get them done right. But figure out tasks that need little or no explanation and enlist someone. Or, delegate tasks you know someone on your team has had basic experience with. For example, call on employees who have research experience to help you find data to support a project proposal.

Hurdle 3: I don’t want to pile extra work on my employees.

So you’d rather pile it on yourself? That just makes you cranky and also never gives your employees an added incentive to step up and learn something new.

How to delegate: Make sure the timing is right when you delegate. Avoid times when you know your team has extra work (for example, at the end of a fiscal year or during heavy travel months). It’s best to check with employees first. Even if they’re eager to step up, they might be thinking about looming deadlines and not having enough room to wiggle. Your aim isn’t to stress employees out or overload them, so make sure you’re choosing an opportune time to delegate.

Follow the Steps to Good Delegation

To make sure the delegation process goes smoothly, check these steps:

  • Delegate the right tasks to the right people. Don’t assign something too complicated to a rookie; you could be stuck redoing the assignment if it’s above the employee’s level.
  • Ensure there’s commitment. You don’t want an employee to cave in to pressure to do more work because she thinks it will “look good.” Genuinely ask if the employee can take the extra work on, and if not, reassure them that’s fine, you’ll catch them when they’ve got less on their plate.
  • Explain the tasks and your expectations thoroughly. Make sure the employee has a clear understanding of what he’s responsible for, details to focus on, absolute deadlines, etc. Let the employee know what the desired outcome should be.
  • Ask for suggestions – and listen to them. If your employee proposes ways to do the job better, consider his ideas. Provide feedback or small changes only when necessary.
  • Express confidence in their ability. It’s a little nerve-wracking to take on a new job; reassure your employee you chose them because they’re dependable, smart, etc. etc.
  • Establish checkpoints and follow up (but don’t hover!). Yes, it’s your hide if the job isn’t done right, but show enough confidence in your employee by checking in every so often, not looking over her shoulder.

Delegating has myriad benefits we don’t always consider. It provides employees with growth opportunities, develops their skills, gives them a sense of achievement, and boosts commitment and morale. And it frees us up to do other things, reduces our stress, and ultimately makes our jobs easier.