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The Art of Delegation: How to Empower Your Team
May 17, 2023

Imagine a basketball team where the star player insists on dribbling the ball for the entire game, never passing it to their teammates. Of course, that team would never reach its full potential, and the star player would likely burn out from exhaustion.

The same goes for any team. To delegate responsibility is like passing the ball — it allows everyone to contribute their strengths and talents so that the workload is evenly distributed across the team. Even so, delegation is something that many people struggle with. But it’s a vital component of any productive team. When delegating effectively, leaders can free up their time and mental energy, empower their team to take ownership of their work, and boost overall performance.

Nevertheless, research has shown that delegation is “a crucial but sadly neglected management skill” strangely often absent from many management textbooks. So we wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to learn more.

So, in this article, we’ll dive into the many benefits of delegation, along with practical strategies and tools for delegating to your team. Whether you’re a team leader looking to streamline your workload, or a team member eager to contribute more, we’ve got you covered. 

The benefits of delegation

Delegation is key to unlocking your team’s potential and achieving incredible things. By delegating specific tasks, you’re giving yourself the gift of time, mental clarity, and the ability to focus on what matters most. You’re also putting yourself in a better position to take on greater challenges for your organization.

But delegation isn’t just good for you — it’s good for your team too! When you delegate tasks effectively, your team has the opportunity to step up, take ownership, and grow. This can lead to greater job satisfaction, higher engagement, and better overall performance.

Of course, delegating responsibility isn’t always easy. We know it's hard to let go of control and trust others to get the job done right. But by developing a delegation mindset and learning effective delegation strategies, you can overcome these barriers and reap the rewards of a truly empowered team.

How to delegate effectively

Effective delegation involves more than just assigning tasks to others. It requires clear communication, setting expectations, providing support, and monitoring progress to ensure team members have what they need to be successful.

Here are some steps to follow for effective delegation:

Identify tasks to delegate

First things first, you need to identify tasks you can delegate to your team. Start by looking at those duties you spend a lot of time on, or those that aren’t necessarily your strongest suit. By delegating these tasks to someone else, you can free up more time to focus on bigger issues while allowing your team to grow and develop their skills. 

So which tasks would be better suited for someone else to complete? This could look like:

  • Engineering Manager – consider tasks related to bug fixing, feature development, or code optimization that could be delegated to your team based on their skills and expertise.
  • Product Manager – consider the upcoming product roadmap and identify specific feature development tasks to assign to different product developers and designers based on their particular strengths.
  • Marketing Manager  - consider delegating content creation to your team for an upcoming campaign, including social drafts, website updates, or email announcements. 

Select the right team member(s)

When delegating tasks, it's important to select the right team member (or members) who are up for the project. Consider their skills, experience, strengths, and current workload to see who both has the ability and available time to take it on. By carefully selecting the appropriate team member, you’ll increase the chances the assignment will be completed successfully.

Not only that, you need to determine if the delegated task is better given to a single person, or several. Long story short, research from MIT shows that simpler tasks are best delegated to individuals. Complex ones (“defined in terms of the number of components and the nature of the interdependencies between them”) are better for groups.

Set clear expectations

When delegating, simply picking someone and kicking it over is not enough. It’s also necessary to clearly communicate the assignment, the desired outcome, and any guidelines or requirements for completing the task. That way, your team member has the full overview of expectations and has resources and support they need to complete the assignment. 

Clearly explain the 5 W’s: the who, what, when, where, and why.  And remember, communication is a two-way street. In explaining the context and expectations of the delegated work, you need to listen carefully. Pay attention to body language and be mindful of tone. The cornerstone of any successful delegation is clarity surrounding expectations, and you need your team member's feedback to confidently establish this.  

Provide support and feedback

As team leader, it’s your responsibility to support your team throughout the tasks you delegate. This means answering questions, providing guidance and feedback, and offering resources and tools to help them complete the task successfully. In fact, acting as a coach throughout this process is one of the most critical pieces of the delegation puzzle. Without this support and feedback, you may find yourself re-doing delegated tasks or fixing employee mistakes. 

Ultimately, the old adage of “if you want something done right, do it yourselfshould not be followed here. And, if it does, chances are you’re not providing enough support or clarity to your team regarding expectations. Proper support and feedback will keep everyone on the same page. It also helps to build trust and camaraderie among team members, leading to better collaboration and overall success. So, lend a helping hand whenever it’s needed, and make sure your team feels supported every step of the way.

It’s also important to note that you can expect the first couple of task delegations to take longer than if you were to just do it yourself. This is going to be a learning process! You didn’t know it all on day one either. But invest the time now so you can save yourself hundreds of hours down the road – and help develop your team’s skill sets so you can harness a more powerful team to take on your company’s goals.

Monitor progress

While the task may be out of your hands, you still need to keep a close eye on your team’s progress while they’re working on the assignment. Regular check-ins will help ensure everything is on track, and that issues are identified and addressed as soon as possible. If you notice things aren’t moving as expected, offer feedback and support (as we just mentioned) to help the team work through the problem. 

Sometimes, adjustments to the timeline or approach may be necessary – as we all have to make from time-to-time with our own tasks as well. By staying engaged and proactive throughout the process, you can help ensure the project is completed successfully and everyone is satisfied with the outcome.

Remember, everyone is human. And you were probably in this person's shoes at one point in your career. Think back to the best manager you’ve ever had – how did they coach, troubleshoot, and motivate you through a new project? Monitor progress and share feedback in a positive and constructive manner to keep your team excited about the new opportunity to expand their experience.

Effective delegation is not only crucial for productivity, but also for team empowerment and professional development. When done well, delegation can help team members grow, develop new skills, and free up your time to focus on higher-level tasks.

Delegation tools and techniques

Outside of clear communication and expectations, various tools and techniques can be used to help streamline the delegation process and make it more efficient.

Here are a few delegation tools and techniques that you can use:

  1. Delegation templates: Create delegation templates for ongoing tasks or typical projects to reduce time spent delegating and improve communication on projects. These templates can include task descriptions, deadlines, instructions, and other relevant details.
  2. Checklists: Outline all the necessary steps when delegating a task. This can include identifying the right team member, setting expectations, providing support, and monitoring progress.
  3. Software tools: There are various software tools available to help with delegation, such as Asana, Trello, and Reclaim. Reclaim, for instance, can help team members set clear priorities, block off focused time for tasks, and communicate their availability and status to others.
Download the complete delegation cheatsheet

4 tips to overcoming delegation challenges

Despite the many benefits of delegation, it’s not always easy to implement. Many managers struggle with delegation due to trust issues, communication breakdowns, and reluctance to let go of control. Here are some strategies for overcoming these challenges and building a culture of delegation and trust.

Build trust 

Trust is the foundation of effective delegation. Without trust, team members may feel reluctant to take on additional responsibilities or be afraid to ask for help when necessary. Building trust when you delegate work starts with being transparent in your communications, setting clear expectations, and following through on your commitments.

It’s also necessary to give your team members the benefit of the doubt, and empower them to make decisions and take ownership of their work. When they feel trusted and supported, they are more likely to excel in their roles and contribute to the team’s success.

Improve communication 

Effective delegation relies on clear communication. Be sure team members understand their roles and responsibilities and provide regular feedback and support as needed. 

Encourage open and honest communication and be willing to listen to feedback and suggestions from team members. Use tools like email, chat, and project management apps to stay connected and keep everyone on the same page.

Address control issues 

One of the most common barriers to delegation is a fear of losing control. Managers may worry that team members won’t do things the way they would, or may make mistakes that reflect poorly on them. 

To overcome this, you need to recognize that delegation is a collaborative process that involves trust, communication, and shared ownership. Encourage team members to take ownership of their work and provide guidance and feedback as needed. Celebrate successes together and learn from mistakes as a team.

Foster a culture of delegation 

Finally, to make delegation a regular part of your team’s workflow, you have to foster a culture where it can thrive. 

Celebrate when team members take on extra responsibilities and achieve success. Recognize that delegation is a skill that needs practice. As more meaningful and challenging assignments are delegated to them, team members will be provided with opportunities to develop and improve their delegation skills over time.

A look at a CEO's priorities

What does effective delegation look like in the real world? We spoke with a former Data Scientist at Meta, Weipeng Zhuo, who ventured into entrepreneurship by establishing their own data science consulting business, Insight Expansion

"As the CEO of a small data science consultancy, I initially found delegating tasks challenging. It was tough letting go of control and entrusting my vision to others. But soon, I realized the power of diversity of thought. Delegating unleashed creativity within my team, leading to better, innovative solutions. A feedback cycle of confidence and empowerment began, improving my team's morale and professional growth.
Perhaps the most transformative aspect was the gift of time. Delegation allowed me to spend more time on things I loved and with my family, improving my work-life balance significantly. Within the company, it also freed me to focus on more strategic tasks that couldn't be delegated, enhancing the value I brought to my company. In essence, it was a journey of trust, acceptance, and transformation, benefitting not just the company but also myself as a leader and an individual."

Empower your team and maximize productivity ⚡

Delegation is a critical skill for leaders to improve productivity and foster a culture of trust and empowerment within their team. When you delegate tasks effectively, you free up time and mental bandwidth, enabling team members to develop new skills and take ownership of their work. This, of course, ultimately improves team performance.

We recommend you try out the techniques and tools discussed in this article, including Reclaim, and make delegation a regular part of your leadership and management practices. With enough practice and consistency, delegating tasks will become a natural way for you to empower team members, improve productivity, and achieve organizational goals.

Did we miss anything important? What are your biggest challenges when it comes to delegating work? Tweet us @reclaimai to let us know!

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