How to Delegate Effectively: 5 Steps for Managers

By Robert Half August 14, 2015 at 2:26pm

As a manager, you’ll inevitably find the need to delegate tasks and projects to members of your team from time to time. However, office relationships, politics and even a manager’s own insecurities can make this difficult. Especially in cases where your reputation is on the line, it can be hard to let go and trust others.

Still, avoiding delegation can send you down the road to burnout. It also deprives your employees of the chance to learn new skills. So it’s important to learn how and when to delegate effectively. Here are five tips:

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.

2. Be clear with instructions, but don’t micromanage

When you delegate a task to an employee, he should see it as a sign of your trust in him and a chance to advance his career. 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. Then, let the employee use his talents to fill in the gaps. 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 employee or team that they shouldn’t hesitate to come to you not only with questions, but also 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 praise the employee who did the work, and perhaps provide any necessary criticism. But don’t forget to also ask them how you could make the process better next time.

Besides helping you avoid burnout and allowing your employees 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.

What are the most effective delegation techniques you’ve discovered? Share your stories about how to delegate in the comments.

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