The art of delegating

Image from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/cartoon/2008/oct/10/work.careers.delegation

There’s an aspect of trust and loss of control in the delegating process. You have to trust the person you are delegating a task to and accept that you aren’t in total control.

For some delegating a task means admitting you aren’t perfect, that other people are more skilled at the task than you or that you simply don’t have time. There is nothing wrong with any of those! You don’t have to be a manager to learn the art of delegating tasks. If you are involved on a committee or an officer in a club, those are excellent places to learn when to delegate, who to delegate to and how to delegate.

Delegating tasks doesn’t mean you get to clear your entire schedule. Kathy Paauw of “Paauwerfully Organized,” has an excellent suggestion for determining what tasks you should delegate to others. You can read the entire article here. Basically, she suggests making a list of all your responsibilities. Of those items on the list, what are you good at or passionate about? The next step is the most critical, “For all the things that are left on the list after you complete step two, identify what you say no to and what you can delegate?” Paauw continues, even if you are capable of, or even really good at doing something, that doesn’t mean that you need to be the one to do it!”

Some managers believe that if they delegate a task to the busiest person, regardless of skill, it will get done. This is not the best use of anyone’s time. The busy person might not have the marketing know-how to create a pamphlet. Delegating a task is the ultimate opportunity to build trust with your team. You give your team a greater sense of purpose and often, give a person a challenge and opportunity to rise to the occasion.

In order to delegate a task, you must first know what the task is. In addition to the what, you also will need to explain how it fits into the big picture. Provide as many details as possible and don’t keep information to yourself. Some questions to think about:

  • What is the deadline? Are there mini deadlines along the way?
  • Is the project on going?
  • Will the person report to you?
  • Will you report to someone else?
  • How will you measure success?
  • How can I help you succeed at this?
  • As if the person has questions.

Be clear on all of those answers upfront to avoid confusion and wasted time.

Above all else, remember you are delegating the outcome not the process. Just because someone does the task differently than you would does not make it wrong. You are judging success not process. It likely isn’t factory work!

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