Delegation should be easy; just give someone a task and let them handle it. Yet, most people struggle to delegate well. There are many reasons delegation is difficult: fear that the job will be done poorly, reluctance to impose on others or taking the time to explain the task when it is faster to do it yourself.
While some leaders are reluctant to delegate, others delegate too much. They hand off tasks left and right like clowns passing out candy at a parade. Those on the receiving end of this type of delegation are left confused and overwhelmed with little follow up or support.
There are many benefits to good delegation. When managers delegate effectively, their teams benefit in efficiency and collaboration. They also foster professional development by giving people the opportunity to work on projects, learn new skills and experience increased responsibility.
If you would like to improve the effectiveness of delegation (regardless of whether you are the person delegating or being delegated to) make sure three things are crystal clear: Expectations, Authority and Accountability.
- Expectations. Take time to clearly explain what needs to be done and when it should be completed. Discuss the level of detail or quality that is needed and who should be involved in the work. Make sure this is a dialogue so both sides agree on deliverables.
- Authority. Ensure the person you are delegating to has the authority (and other resources) to complete the task. If not, inform key stakeholders of the assignment and remove roadblocks.
- Accountability. When delegating a project that will take a long time to complete, set up milestones to gauge the progress of the work. If you are delegating quick tasks, keep track of the assignments, making sure things don't fall through the cracks.
Taking the time to get these three steps right will help your team work together efficiently and effectively. It will also enable team members to gain new skills and grow professionally. Most importantly, it will free leaders to focus on the most important functions of leadership rather than getting stuck in the details of the daily grind.