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The Art of Delegation

May 11, 2024
Borderless Leadership

How many times have you heard a coworker say, “But it is easier if I do it myself!”? Or are you the employee that says that? We’ve all said that statement at one point in time, but if we are regularly saying that it is easier to do things ourselves instead of delegating responsibilities to teammates, it is time to reevaluate if it really is easier if we continually do tasks on our own. Delegation is a crucial skill that managers must understand and utilize otherwise the company’s potential will be hindered. Let’s explore the benefits of delegation by managers in the workplace.

What is Delegation?
Merriam-Webster defines delegation as “the act of empowering to act for another”. In the work environment, delegation is often defined as sharing or transferring tasks from one person to another. Both of these definitions are correct and intertwined. Managers can transfer tasks to their team members, and colleagues can share tasks centered on achieving the common goals of the organization. Delegation is not solely about the delegator passing on duties to the delegate; it is more.

Delegation is the concept of the delegator trusting the delegate with the responsibility to complete the task(s). As well as granting them the authority to make the best decisions possible related to the task(s) leading to the outcome produced. While not all outcomes will be positive, trust still creates the foundation of delegation. When properly communicated from the delegator to the delegate, this transfer of responsibility can become empowering. Managers show they have trust in their team members to complete tasks. Colleagues can enhance creativity and collaboration when they work together on responsibilities focused on a unified target. The power of teamwork is unhindered.

Time Saving Capabilities
Delegation is a time saver. (Yes, it is true!) The American Psychological Association (APA) puts the kibosh on claims that multitasking equates greater productivity. In fact, research states the opposite. When a person “multitasks”, it is more taxing on their cognitive functions. It can lead to increased errors and time spent on tasks. Multitasking is often a way of life for managers as they are motivated to ensure their team succeeds and that they demonstrate their contributions to the profits of the organization.

A key reason why delegation can be challenging for managers is fear. Managers can possess fears that people will perceive them as incapable of performing certain tasks or completing projects on their own. Strike that fear down, and start delegating. When managers delegate tasks and projects to their team members, it helps the team strengthen existing skills and learn new skills which then make the whole team stronger. Productivity increases through collaboration and trust. In a post-COVID world, employees are seeking a better work-life balance. Delegation provides that opportunity. When managers delegate tasks within the company, they acquire more time for strategic initiatives to grow the company and its employees.

Employee Development
Delegation becomes a concurrent method of employee development and succession planning. When a manager delegates tasks to their teammates, this gives teammates a chance to learn new skills while building on existing strengths. As teammates grow in skill and confidence, leaders arise making them viable options for promotions or replacements when a new position is created or a vacancy arises. Ultimately, a company’s best asset for success is its people. When employees are not provided growth opportunities or do not feel that their skills are valued, they will find a different company who values them. Do not lose key talent to competitors by not empowering teammates to handle new responsibilities and projects.

What Tasks to Delegate
Managers should not delegate tasks that they would not want to do themselves nor should the delegated tasks be the hardest to complete. This will defeat the goal of enhanced efficiency and productivity leading to generated feelings of frustration. Look at each team member’s strengths, and select activities to delegate which reinforce each team member’s strengths. Make sure each teammate knows what is expected of them, and clearly define the goals and expectations of the delegated task(s).

Discuss what type of communication is preferred. Establish check-in parameters so it does not look like the manager is micromanaging and the team member is on their own. Collect and listen, not hear but listen, to feedback acquired from teammates in check-in sessions so delegated tasks can be adjusted or redelegated if needed. Provide resources and training to delegates as needed. Most importantly, ensure that employees feel appreciated. Appreciation can be shown in many ways such as thank you notes, lunches, company swag or other tokens. When managers show gratitude for employees’ efforts, that increases positive morale and leads to enhanced commitment to the company by employees.

How Delegation Helps Managers
Delegation affects the hard and soft skills of all those involved, including managers. Managers learn how to communicate expectations, gauge deadlines and evaluate team members’ blatant and inconspicuous skills. Team members learn how to communicate updates and questions, data analysis in decision making, and adherence to timelines and expectations. Both managers and teammates are affected if delegated tasks are completed well, completed poorly or left as incomplete. Success and failure affect all the stakeholders involved.

Do not let “But it is easier if I do it myself!” become your mantra. Delegation provides the opportunity for managers to show confidence in their employees and talents. It shows that managers believe in the decision making skills of their employees. This builds a stronger level of trust as a whole within the company. When employees feel they are trusted to make good decisions and complete designated responsibilities, (AKA empowered), retention increases and a positive work morale becomes contagious. Profits increase for the company. Delegation is a skill, and it takes time and practice to refine that skill. If you’re hesitant to delegate, take small steps as you practice refining your delegation skills. Small steps lead to big results.

by Nancy Meyer, SHRM-CP


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