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How to Delegate Effectively

Delegating works. It allows folks to focus on the work that only they can do.

No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.
~Andrew Carnegie

When we have conversations with clients about how to be more productive, delegating is a topic that often rises to the top. Delegating works. It allows folks to focus on the work that only they can do and ultimately helps them be productive and increase their scope of responsibility. It also empowers teams, builds trust, and provides development opportunities for employees.

But delegating only works if it’s done effectively. It is one of those things that is often talked about in vague terms without shared understanding of what it is and how it can help both you and your team be more productive. Managers are told to delegate but aren’t told how to do it. In this void, the behavior we often see managers adopt is giving orders and micromanaging, instead of delegating. This, of course, rarely works – because who likes this? These humans who you are micromanaging want to be successful, feel valued for their contributions, and learn and grow in their jobs. They don’t want to fail or fall short.

So where to start? How can you, the manager, who needs to drive productivity and momentum with your people, delegate effectively?

First, start with YOU. On a weekly basis, review your priority list and ask yourself:

  • Which of these items can only be accomplished by you?
  • Which of these deliverables can be completed by someone else on the team?
  • How can these deliverables be used to develop someone on my team?

When reviewing this list, think about:

  • Getting curious about the interests and capabilities of your team.
  • Asking what motivates and demotivates your team? Delegate to their motivations.
  • Building a team of people with skills and expertise different from your own. Delegate to their strengths.

Then begin to delegate and boost the effectiveness by keeping in mind these six tips:

  • Clarify boundaries: Boundaries create safety, for you and for them. Defining the playing field is helpful for everyone to trust that what is happening is what needs to be done. So, get clear about what you need and expect from them as they move through this effort.
  • Define success: What are the key success measures? How will you determine the success of this effort? Examples might be timeliness, innovation, the resolution to a recurring problem. Being clear about this helps everyone involved understand if expectations are being met, or not.
  • Provide context: When you are delegating, folks need to know WHY this particular thing is important and how it fits into the bigger picture. They need to understand why deadlines are important and the impact that failing to deliver will have on the whole. You may be privy to information that might be super helpful to the team – so take a beat: prepare and share.
  • Have a growth mindset: To delegate, you need to trust that the people who work for you have the answers. This belief in the potential of your people is key to delegation. Without it you will be an order giver not a people builder. This is a mindset about people.
  • Embrace Power With: Power With is the idea that you are in this together. You, the manager, are using your power in the relationship WITH them. It is a shared role; and you need to get clear about what your role looks like, different from theirs. Without this clarity, your desire to help them grow can quickly become seen and felt as micromanagement.
  • Ask for help!: What does help look like? What doesn’t help? When do they want/need coaching and when do they need the answer? You won’t know without asking them so you can meet them at their point of need.

Delegating done well can increase productivity and build and sustain healthy workplace relationships. Everyone benefits from the growth that happens, and it all begins with YOU.

We’d love your take on this topic… Where has it popped up in your life, what have you tried that worked… or maybe didn’t? Please join the conversation and chime in by emailing [email protected].

Humanity works because of you!
Kate and Debbie

Photo by Charles Deluvio