A Day in the Life of Stress: Delegating Work
Delegation is a skill that is difficult to learn, and it isn’t about simply passing on tasks that you do not want to complete.
It is a familiar situation: you have too much on your plate with new projects, schedules and deadlines coming out of your ears and you are at a loss as to what to do next. You don’t feel that you can pass on some of your workload, because you don’t trust anyone to do it as well. But if you don’t give anyone the chance, how can they possible prove their worth?
Learning to Let Go
Delegation is about passing on some of your responsibility and empowering someone else to do it, while retaining a suitable level of control. It allows others to develop their skills and expand their knowledge, and helps you to efficiently manage your workload.
Most commonly, delegation is associated with a work environment, but you probably use it without realising it outside of work. Perhaps you set up a rota for household duties in a shared house, or arranged for someone to look after your pet while you were on holiday? That’s delegation.
Why is it hard to Delegate?
Delegating might sound like an easy thing to do, but if that’s the case, why do so many people find it so hard? Perfectionism is one of several reasons. People need to be trusted to complete tasks without your involvement and inevitably mistakes will be made, but what better way for people to learn!
When you delegate you surrender some of your authority, but not your responsibility. This loss of control can be hard, but you need to realise that effective delegation will benefit you as you’ll have more time to do your job.
It is important that you are clear and informative in your handover, as not delegating competently can leave your team with low morale and confusion. If you get asked too many questions about delegated tasks then you are failing to hand over effectively.
Learning how to Delegate
If you delegate poorly don’t expect good results. It’s vital that you communicate what needs to be done and clearly set out why, how and when the task is to be completed.
Setting a standard
- The positive aspects of delegation are a higher level of efficiency, increased motivation and a better distribution of work throughout your team. But, how do you decide what to delegate and to whom? There is no point in passing on a task if the person you are passing it on to will not be able to complete it to a high degree of satisfaction on your part. It is not essential that they get it 100% correct, but if they can manage to complete the task at 80% efficiency then you’re on to a good thing.
- It’s important that you carefully consider which tasks should be delegated and that the handover of these is clear and thorough. The activity log and to-do lists you have done are a good place to start. From these you’ll be able to tell which tasks can be quickly picked up by others and which may be suited to someone who has a different set of skills than you and can bring an alternative approach. In this way you can develop people to look after routine tasks that are not costs effective for you to carry out.
- The tasks most commonly delegated are usually dull and boring, but essential to the smooth running of the department. Try to distribute these responsibilities fairly – if you always give mundane jobs to the same people you’ll risk making them unmotivated and a fall in performance is inevitable.
- Make sure you explain the purpose of the job you are handing over and what your level of expectation is. The other person will need to know when it has to be completed, why the task is important, how it will help and, most importantly, the fact that you are there if they need advice or additional information.
- Once you have delegated, allow the other person space to do the task. Your role is now to manage and oversee – not to interfere. Instead, set up regular checkpoints so that you can monitor their progress.
Assessing the work
- When the job is delivered back to you allow yourself enough time to check it through carefully, and if it is incomplete talk it through with the person. Correcting it yourself is counterproductive; it wastes you time and won’t help the person to whom you delegated the task to work to an acceptable level. Ask the person to make the relevant revisions but if you are still experiencing problems then consider passing the work to somebody else. Remember to give yourself plenty of extra time to sort out any problems that might arise as a result of your delegation.