Got a workload that just won’t quit? Feeling buried under deadlines and meetings? It’s probably time to dole out some of your work. But don’t think of it as passing the buck or cutting corners. The delegation of authority is the cornerstone of the relationship between managers and members of their team. “You can’t do everything yourself,” says Catherine Maybrey, PhD, owner of Catherine Maybrey Coaching Services, “If you are overstretched, use this as an opportunity to mentor your promising direct reports.”
Farming out tasks can be critical to your success. It also provides opportunities for your staff to contribute meaningfully, keep them engaged, and develop their talents. So, how do you know what to pass along, what to keep a close eye on, and what to definitely do yourself?
Read on for six secrets the best managers know about how to delegate successfully.
1. Focus on the Tasks You Know Best
Your work satisfaction doesn’t just come from a job well done. According to a survey published in the International Journal of Leadership Studies, it is also derived from having faith in your employees and their abilities to do difficult tasks without you micromanaging them. The study authors found a “significant relationship between supervisors’ trust of their subordinates and supervisors’ job satisfaction.”
Still unsure of what tasks to hand over and what to keep for yourself? Hold onto the ones that specifically require your area of expertise or specialty, says Maybrey. “If you were hired for your budgeting prowess or marketing know-how, then make sure that you work on the tasks you know best. This way you can be sure you are contributing at the level that your supervisors or stakeholders expect.”
2. Delegate More Than Dull Tasks
In a George Mason University study that compared what bosses thought their employees wanted to what employees said they looked for in job satisfaction, study authors uncovered a disconnect. While employers rated promotion and job security at the top of the list, their workers stated that a sense of being “in on things,” and “interesting work” ranked at the top. So go on, unload some of your time-consuming administrative tasks onto your assistant. Then include her on meetings with your office manager so she can get a deeper knowledge of your office setting. She’ll be more motivated and accountable, knowing that she’s an intrinsic part of your team.
3. Check in Regularly
A dirty secret of a too-busy workload? It may indicate that you actually have a low-performing employee on your team who is draining you (and maybe even the rest of your staff). This employee’s lackluster performance may go unnoticed—until you realize that your ever-increasing to-do list may be due to the subordinate who isn’t carrying his full weight. According to Maybrey, the best way to ensure that you’re maintaining high standards of your employees is “to build regular check-ins to a predetermined timeline to ensure that everyone is on track.” These regular meetings should improve their job performance—and may even lighten your own load.
4. Delegate Tasks Not Critical to Your Expertise
When you’re bogged down with tasks that take up precious time but aren’t necessarily critical to your area of expertise, it’s probably time to parcel these duties to your subordinates. Filing time-consuming business expense reports quickly isn’t going to impress the boss like bringing new business to the firm.
So, use your abilities and skills in the best way but parceling out those more generic tasks to employees. The art of delegation means you as a manager can devote time to the important, game-changing issues that you were hired for.
5. Don’t Be a Control Freak
According to organizational theory, to be successful at delegation, you need to relinquish some control. Sure, this can be hard to accept when having your hand in everything is your usual modus operandi. But the best leaders are able to hand over some authority to those tapped to be responsible for the new work unloaded. Step back and offer authority and equality to the staff you’ve appointed to carry out the tasks and let them take responsibility for them.
6. But Don’t Forget You’re Still Responsible
And speaking of blame, make no mistake. Even when you’re passing along duties to others, remember that you’re still responsible for the job if they mess it up. So, choose your sidekicks wisely.
Make timelines clear, says Maybrey. “Decide what can be pushed back, and what needs reassigning to someone else.” And when your team comes through? You’ll be the one who’ll get the recognition from your bosses, so be sure to mention the contributions of your team too. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it boosts morale and it shows that you’re a team player. Plus, as Mabrey points out, “You’ll probably want to enlist their help again in the future.”
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