How to Delegate Work Tasks

Time Management CourseOn March 16, 2015, I posted an article entitled, “don’t do it yourself … DELEGATE!” In that post, I covered a few of the basic principles and practices in effective delegation. It goes without saying that the benefit to everyone is huge if you do it well. So is the cost if you don’t delegate well or effectively.

Why Delegate
One of the first benefits is that it makes more time for you. The essence of good time management is to do what matters. Master the art of delegation and you’ll spend much more of your time doing that. Equally as important is that it provides new opportunities for others to learn and to develop themselves. When you give your team members more responsibility, in effect you are saying ‘I trust you’. You may find that this trust pays off as they introduce new ways of doing things.

Delegation is Difficult Initially
The chief reason for this difficulty is that you have to set up a system. This is the exact point that many team leaders balk and determine that “it’s quicker to do it myself.” This might be true if you never received any additional tasks, issues or problems and your to-do list never got any longer.

This is where many become trapped doing things that someone else could, or should, do. We can only think one thought at a time. You need to invest your time in executing the real work, not busy work.

I have had the experience of having someone tell me that they did not have anyone could do certain tasks and that was the reason they did not delegate more. Of course, my response was that if one person learned the task others could even if the teaching method and time were different. Again, invest your time in developing “cheat sheets”, Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) so that a clear baseline can be established for each task. We don’t want to create robots, but tasks can be routinized.

Besides, the following ideas may help you tip the balance towards delegating more often than you have been doing up until now:

Delegation Tips
Delegate in a timely manner. If you want someone perform a task, let them know as soon as possible. Other team members have work to do as well, and may need to re-adjust priorities to accommodate your request.

  • Build in a buffer. For example, on a thirty (30) minute task, initially a 10 minute buffer could be allowed and reduced as the team member becomes more proficient. This allows you time to chase and process work before its actual deadline. Another example might be, if your project deadline is Wednesday, ask for the delegated portion to be completed by late Monday. This gives you time to develop a plan on Monday evening and execute it on Tuesday to make the deadline on Wednesday.
  • Clarify these three questions; what, when and why. If you have developed an SOP you will not have to worry about “how” how they do it (as long as it’s legal!) At the very least give the assignment in writing outlining what you want done and the due date. You could express a deadline by saying “Next Monday at 4:00 pm”.
  • Courtesy and professionalism. A spirit of respect, trust and support goes a long way in the delegation process. People simply respond better to “Please” and “Thank you”, so don’t overlook these powerful phrases.
  • Progress Checks. Specific, focused updates enhance the quality of work and the likelihood of the deadline being met. Whomever is delegated work is more likely to keep it at the top of mind. You reduce excuses when you prompt people a day or two before you want the work. Make sure the gap between the reminder and the deadline allows them time to do, and you to review if necessary.
  • Timely Follow up. Missed deadline? Respond — immediately. The longer you leave it, the cooler it gets and the less they think it matters. This is essential for good time management, whether at work or at home.
  • Excuses. Many people want to focus on ‘why’ they missed a deadline rather than the project outcome. So, focus on the”when” their task will be completed.

How and When Not to Delegate Tasks

There are people who are superb at delegating work, but still bad at delegating. Why? They don’t do any of the dirty work themselves. Some things can’t be shared. Confidential work needs to be kept confidential. Work may genuinely be too complex — if someone isn’t up to the task, it’s not fair on anyone to pass it on. Can they cope with the ‘thinking’ aspect of the work, or is it uniquely yours? We delegate tasks all the time, at work and at home. Practice and refine your ability to delegate and you’ll free up more time to do things that challenge, relax and excite you.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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Posted in Professional Skills, Time Management

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