Having Trouble Delegating? Here’s How to Start

Delegating isn’t a skill that comes easily to most people. But if you’re a manager, it’s a crucial one to learn.

The simple fact is that one person can’t do it all – and if you try to, you’ll just be asking for a bad case of burnout. Not to mention that overwhelming yourself can cause you to make mistakes or perform poorly.

Quite often, we don’t delegate because we like to be in control. We like to know that a certain thing will be done exactly the way we want it, or we think our team just isn’t up to the task. Or maybe it just seems like it’ll take longer to teach than it will to actually do ourselves.

It can be unnerving to let go of something you’ve been doing forever – partly because you may fear the outcome won’t be up to snuff, but partly because you may worry that if you start delegating essential tasks, you may not be needed as much anymore.

Whatever your reason for not delegating, it’s time to put that aside. Delegation isn’t a sign of weakness, or of not being able to handle your job. It’s a sign of great leadership skills.

So how do you get started?

Step 1: Figure out which tasks should be delegated out

A good rule of thumb is to stay focused on the things that only you, as a manager, can do. These are probably big-picture items, like managing team-wide projects or making sure you’re all headed in the same direction.

Write down every task you do for a week, then sit down and analyze which ones are truly part of your job description, and which may be better done by someone else. If you have trouble figuring it out, try meeting with your own supervisors to see what they’d suggest.

Step 2: Teach the task and clarify expectations

Are you holding off delegating something because you think it’ll take forever to teach? Well, it’s time to take the long view. Think of all the time you’ll save in the future if you just take an hour now and teach your process!

Document your process, step by step – but be aware that your way may not be the only way to do things. Highlight the steps in your process that are absolutely crucial, and point out which steps are more of a guide.

Remember: you’re delegating the results, not the process. If you dictate exactly how it has to be done, you’re limiting the amount your employee can grow, and dampening any chance for innovation along the way.

Step 3: Establish checkpoints and provide support

Make sure things are staying on track with a series of checkpoints that are agreed upon ahead of time. After a few rounds you may not need to check in as constantly, but at first it will ease both of your minds. When deciding on each checkpoint, let your employee know whether they should be waiting for your next instructions, or if they should just alert you that they’re done and go on to the next step.

Step 4: Use your free time to manage, not to micromanage

The last crucial step of delegating is to let the task go. If you feel a task isn’t getting done correctly, provide some more guidance or go over the process again. But hold off on the micromanaging. That will just cause resentment from the person you delegated the task to in the first place, and won’t actually free you up to do the important work you should be doing.

Delegation benefits both you, and your team.

As a manager, delegating tasks frees you up to work on things that are more in line with your role. Like overseeing the entire department, planning future projects, and, well, managing. When your schedule is clogged with delegable tasks, it can be hard for you to make the big-picture decisions that you as a manager should be making.

Delegation also teaches important skills to the employee you’re delegating to, which will make him or her a more valuable part of the team. And, bonus, the more responsibility an employee has, the more empowered and motivated he’ll be.

So start making that list and get delegating today!

Are you a good delegator? How did you learn to let go of tasks? I’d love to hear your answers in the comments.

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