Kathy Davis: How Do You Delegate?

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You are the leader of your organization. Consequently, delegation is a task you’ve probably learned to incorporate into your daily routine. Delegation of tasks to teammates enables us to focus on the higher level activities, but in essence allows us to realize our vision for ourselves and others within the organization.

As the managing partner of my firm, I’m known as the ultimate delegator. (That was true even when I was a staff accountant). So is it a skill you naturally have or is it a skill you learn? I believe it’s a little of both. As such, I’ve learned different techniques along the way and here is what I have found that works for me:

1. Chose the Right Tasks. Most people don’t delegate because it takes a lot of up-front effort. While it may seem easier do it yourself than explain the strategy or steps of a project to someone else, here are three key questions to ask yourself to know when you should delegate the task to someone else:

  • Is this a task that can be handed off and is not critical for me to complete myself?
  • Does the task provide an opportunity to grow and develop another person’s skills?
  • Is this a task that will recur, in a similar form, in the future?

If you said yes to all of the above, you can feel assured it’s the right task to delegate.  Putting in the time now to help foster a teammate’s abilities around it means that the next time a similar project comes along, you’ll have a much higher degree of confidence that it will be done well, with much less involvement from you. Another key item to remember is to mix up the tasks. Don’t delegate just the mundane! Make sure to also delegate activities that are worthwhile and valuable for the person in the career/position.

2. Identify the Right People. Delegation allows you to make the best use of your time and skills, and it helps other people in the team grow and develop to reach their full potential in the organization. Besides identifying a team member that possesses the right background experience and knowledge, other factors to consider here include the individual’s:

  • Preferred work style. How independent is the person? Will they see this as an opportunity to grow or will they see it outside their job description?
  • Current workload. Does the person have time to take on more work? Will you delegating this task require reshuffling of other responsibilities and workloads?

Understanding these factors upfront will help you communicate the task appropriately and set expectations. It will also allow you to make any needed adjustments in the organization to ensure a smooth transition.

3. Provide Adequate Support. Encourage questions, continue to be available and plan to monitor and review progress. Avoid the two extremes sometimes associated with poor delegation; either of abandoning your own responsibility to guide, or of being over-bearing, and retaining too much control of the task.

Overall, I believe delegating is a great way of encouraging team members to develop themselves and for you, as a leader to develop coaching and mentoring skills. What lessons have you learned from delegating? I would love to hear from you.

Originally posted by Kathy Davis on March 20, 2015 at 3:39pm

Updated: May 11th, 2020

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