How to Delegate Effectively: 5 Steps for Managers

By Robert Half August 14, 2015 at 2:00pm

As a manager, you’ll inevitably find the need to share tasks and projects with members of your team. However, it can be hard to let go and trust others — to delegate effectively.

Whether it's office relationships, politics or your own insecurities, this can be difficult. Still, avoiding delegation can send you down the road to burnout. It can also deprive your team of the chance to learn new skills. So it’s important to learn how and when to delegate effectively. Here are five steps:

1. Know whom to choose

The choice of whom you delegate a task to will mostly be based on individual strengths (and weaknesses), as well as overall work style, but motivation should be a factor, too. In general, you want to look to your best team players. These are the people who take the attitude that delegated responsibilities are ultimately “their” work, instead of someone else’s, and that they can benefit from mentoring relationships.

2. Be clear with instructions without micromanaging

When you delegate a task, it should be seen as a sign of your trust in the person and an opportunity for career advancement. However, if you provide too little or too much instruction, that perception can change quickly. Focus on the desired outcome, and specify parts of the process that are important to you. Remember, support is one thing; giving orders and checking in at every step of the process is quite another.

3. Set clear deadlines

Avoid being too general with your timeline and using phrases like “sometime next week” or “in the next few days.” Set specific deadlines, and be direct about how strict or flexible they are.

4. Leave the door open for communication

Make it clear to the tasked worker or team that they shouldn’t hesitate to come to you with questions or with any thoughts about the project or changes they think should be made. They may see something you don’t, and you may learn something new.

5. Don’t forget follow-up

Effective delegation should be a two-way street. Of course, you’ll want to offer workplace recognition and praise to the person who did the work and, perhaps, provide any necessary criticism. But don’t forget to also ask how you could make the process better next time.

Besides helping you avoid burnout and allowing your team to gain new skills, effective delegation can have another great side effect: Over time, it will make it easier for you to identify your office stars, the ones who are ready for promotion to leadership roles.

Get more management advice by reading the Robert Half blog.

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