As a manager, or leader of a team, you shouldn’t be expected to do everything yourself. Your time will fill up very quickly, you don’t want to spend time completing work that others can do well, find motivating to complete and that would help with their development. If you spend all your time doing tasks your team could do you won’t have time to lead and manage effectively. You have a team for a reason – this is where delegation comes in.
Delegation has several overlapping benefits for you and your team. It lets you hand over some of your tasks, freeing up your time and energy for leading, managing and coaching. This gives others more responsibility, and establishes increased trust, meaning that next time, you will both feel happier and more confident about delegating more tasks.
The most successful delegation should double as a process of active support and development for the person you’re handing this task or project to. It’s also important that the work is still done to a high quality. As a manager, you still hold overall responsibility for the work done by your team, even if you’re not actually the one doing it.
The best leaders understand not just the competencies of their team, but also the level of confidence towards particular tasks and projects. The Skill/Will Matrix1 is a way of charting their progress in both of these areas. In each stage, a person requires something different from their manager.
The Low Skill/High Will section is for people beginning to learn to do something new. They’re excited and enthusiastic but need formal training or direct instruction.
Often, after trying it for a while their initial enthusiasm wanes, as they still aren’t as successful as they’d like to be. This puts them in the Low Will/Low Skill category. This is a stage that risks them becoming particularly disheartened, so it’s important that any delegation comes with guidance and coaching to show them specifically how they can improve.
The third category is for when their ability has improved, but their confidence hasn’t caught up. Managing someone who is High Skill/Low Will means giving encouragement and praise, making them recognise their own achievements.
After enough time, all the training, coaching and guidance will pay off as they begin to feel happier and more enthusiastic about their work again, now in the High Skill/High Will sector. As their manager, after they become more confident and competent with this project, you may want to encourage them to take on more responsibility – restarting the process.
There are a few steps managers should go through to create the most successful and worthwhile delegation. The key is to view it as a mutual opportunity for development and growth.
Step 1: Plan
There are a few reasons work is typically delegated: either a manager wants to reduce their own workload so they can focus more time on the leadership and management aspects of their role; there’s someone else on the team with the experience and skills to make them a better choice; a manager wants to develop someone’s skills, and so gives them something new to do; or they want to specifically test their potential by giving them this new challenge. Before delegating anything, take time to consider the people in your team – they’ll each have their own strengths and weaknesses, areas of interest and skills they want to develop, so assign work accordingly.
You should also decide on the way you’re going to monitor progress. This means knowing what deadlines and particular milestones to assign, as well as whether you want to have daily check-ins, weekly reviews or something else. Even though you’re not the one doing the work, you’re still expected to oversee and manage the project.
Step 2: Communication
Although you’re well within your rights as a manager to simply assign work, it’s much more effective (for you and for your team) to have proper conversations about the task and expectations.
Start by finding out how they feel about adding to their current workload, and then how they feel about this task in particular. Remember, if this is their first time doing something, it will probably take them longer than it would take you. This is all part of their learning process and should be factored in.
Clearly set out what’s expected of them, including deadlines and what they do and don’t have authority or responsibility over. For example, they might have to work within an existing framework, or they might be able to redesign the whole process.
It’s important that this is a first conversation about the work, not the only conversation. The most effective delegation comes with adequate support, helping them develop and become more confident.
Step 3: Make sure it’s working
Once they start the delegated work, you should keep an eye on how they’re doing. If they’re learning to do something new, some level of difficulty is to be expected. Make yourself available for questions and assistance, while holding them to a fair and reasonable standard.
To give them a chance to learn, you should ensure you’re not micromanaging them. The only thing worse than doing something you’re not sure or confident about yet, is doing it with the expert looking over your shoulder constantly commenting and nit-picking.
Finally, when they’ve finished, give them praise and thanks. Make it specific, so they know exactly what they did well and how to improve their skills next time. Furthermore, if their work goes to other people, be sure to give them the credit they deserve. If they find out you’re getting the praise for their hard work, they could resent you and lower their confidence and willingness next time. Instead, giving them pride in their achievements improves both their skills and will, making their next piece of work even better.
For many, especially new managers, handing over the reins and of a project can be a daunting experience. By knowing how to successfully delegate work, you can give yourself time to focus on other things, safe in the knowledge you’re developing and supporting your team.
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1 The Skill/Matrix is an adaption by Keilty, Goldsmith & Co. Inc. of original work by Hershey & Blanchard