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Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
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Delegating Tips, Even If No One Works for You

My Dad used to say, “Decide. Delegate. And Disappear.”

Delegation is an important component of most leadership roles. But you must understand that delegating the job doesn’t mean delegating the responsibility.  You are still responsible, even if you are getting someone else to do some of the work.

If you’re an entrepreneur, especially when you first start your business, you may need to wear multiple hats, dealing with everything from production to customer service and support. However, as your company evolves, you will quickly discover that it pays to have the right team.

If you are new to an organization, and you are still determining who can do what, delegation may be tough. 

If you are in an organization and no one reports to you, you may feel as though you have to do it all yourself because there is no one else to delegate to.

Whether you have difficulty letting go of responsibilities or don’t know who to delegate to, delegation is a critical component for your success. 

It’s easy to assume that only you can deliver the right outcomes.

However, studies by Harvard suggest that delegation can increase the overall performance of any organization.

Delegating empowers others in your organization to make the most of their skills. It’s also an opportunity to reduce some of the stress on you.

Don’t have anyone in the organization to delegate to? Hire a virtual assistant or a VA service for tasks that do not contain sensitive information, that others can do with minimal guidance, and that you are not good at doing.

I have a team of virtual assistants, and the tasks they get correspond to their abilities and compensation. I also use a VA service, which allows me to quickly outsource the one-off jobs that might be a distraction to my daily team’s activities.

Hiring excellent talent means that you can delegate more of your tasks.

When Should I Delegate?

Before you can learn how to delegate effectively, it is important to know when it would be beneficial to share tasks with your employees. Not every task can be delegated, but more can be delegated than most overwhelmed people realize.

Yes, there will always be certain issues you’ll handle yourself. For instance, you can’t have your staff performing their own audits or performance reviews.

There are also some tasks in your day-to-day activities that can be automated with tech or computer tools, meaning that human delegation isn’t necessary. Scheduling phone calls or Zoom meetings can be automated with a booking app. Setting up reminders for routine activities can be automated. Social media posts can be done across multiple platforms using an aggregator.

The most obvious activities to delegate are when:

  • You simply do not have the right talent or skill to handle a task on your own.
  • Someone else within the organization is better equipped for the task in question.
  • Someone else outside of the organization is better equipped for the task in question.
  • Even with practicing excellent time management, you still don’t have enough time to handle what you need to do. 

Other priorities are rising to the surface, and you need to restructure your time.

How Do I Delegate?

Delegating is not something that always comes naturally to many team members. That is why you need a plan.

Remember that delegating the task does not delegate the overall responsibility. You keep that.

Use these strategies to effectively delegate:

1. Know your team and their superpowers. Every employee has specific skills and talents that make them better suited for certain jobs. Your team might have skills they want to learn, and competencies that they want to accomplish. Delegating tasks to them can help them to achieve those goals.For instance, if someone wants to develop their leadership skills, and they’re good at finances, they can lead an internal audit review. 

2. Define the desired outcome. The projects you give to others should come with clear guidance and direction. Like many others I know, I sometimes believe that I am providing good direction, and sometimes I am wrong.

I recently realized that I had made 2 typos in a set of instructions that changed the overall meaning of the words, and therefore, vastly confused the person I was trying to task.  Provide complete instructions with plenty of context, and make sure you are understood.  When delegating, we need to be really clear about the objectives we want to accomplish in order to get the right results.

Know exactly what you want your people to achieve before you assign them the jobs, and ensure that they’re clear about their goals too. Mapping out clear expectations can save you a lot of time and money.

3. Provide the right resources. If the person you’re delegating your work to needs help to get the task done, make sure that they get it right away. Sometimes your employees will require specific training, authority, or resources to complete the assigned project.

  • Remove any red-tape or hurdles in advance.
  • Giving your people the right resources they need also means that you fight the urge to micromanage.
  • Trust that person with the job, and step back as much as you can.

4. Establish channels of communication. It’s important to have a system in place that encourages positive input and feedback when your team members have questions.

  • Think about the most effective modes of communication you have in your business, from video conferencing to instant chat. How often do you check in? How often do you want updates? Setting up regular communication strategies will save you a lot of time and effort.

5. Allow for failure and reward success. Finally, avoid delegating with the assumption that your team members are going to fail. Be confident in their skills and abilities, as this helps you to avoid micromanaging. However, do keep in mind that things might not go exactly according to plan.

I like delegating, but I am not always good at it because I sometimes (mistakenly!) assume that other people can read my mind. Try to avoid the “That is not what I meant” and “That is not what I wanted” conversations by being more clear in the beginning. Don’t make people guess to discover what you want. Increase communications to set expectations and convey the right information.

  • Recognize mistakes and use them as an opportunity to improve the process for next time.
  • Own up to the fact that you might need to give better instructions or be clearer about your requests when you’re sharing information.
  • Realize that just because someone did something differently doesn’t mean it is wrong. It may be better than what you envisioned.
  • When delegation goes well and your employees deliver positive results, recognize it. Pay attention to the effort exerted by your team members and acknowledge their results.

    Whether you own your own business or you’re a leader where you’re employed, being able to delegate means you can spend more time on your top priorities.







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