Delegating is one of the quickest ways to perform your job better. When you effectively delegate work, you can do more strategic work and focus on what really matters and less on non-essential matters. Plus, most of your team members want more responsibility—it’s essential to their job growth. Everyone wins. But where do you start, when letting go is not your forte?
Delegation is a skill, one you can acquire and develop over time and through experience. It demands confidence—in yourself and in your ability to pick the right team member for a task. The biggest barrier to delegating is inside your head. And don’t get roped into thinking delegating is a sign of weakness. Managers who delegate know that it encourages and motivates individuals and improves teamwork.
To get you going, here are nine delegating tips:
1. Delegate to the right person.
Don’t give a project to the team member you think should be able to do the job. Instead, go with the person you know has the skills to execute the task, especially if it’s a critical task item, or the project needs some redirection. Pick someone reliable, even if it means considering a contractor.
2. Be clear on directions and deadlines.
Don’t delegate anything that you can’t precisely describe. Talk through the important points that need to be addressed. Outline what needs to be accomplished and provide a clear outcome frame—when do you know that the work is done?
3. Provide the necessary resources.
If you delegate high-priority work, make sure you provide access to tools, programs, people or money—whatever makes a difference. Make sure your team members have what they need to succeed.
4. Focus on outcomes, not the process.
Another team member may do the job differently than you would, but you care about the quality of the end result and the time it took to reach it. If you feel strongly about the process, make sure you go over that process when you delegate. Or provide a template.
5. Get buy-in from the beginning.
If you have a transparent way of working, or a collaborative project management tool, your team might already know what’s going on. Then, the delegation process is easier because people can take on work with a sense of how their part fits into the bigger picture. If you’re introducing new work, sit down with the team or individuals and tell them why the group is taking on the work, how it benefits the organization and what kind of goals and timeline you’re going for. Clarity from the start beats uncovering crossed signals and unfinished work at crunch time.
6. Check in but don’t hover.
Check in often enough to know how delegated tasks are going. Asking for a draft is one approach. Some people may be reluctant to approach you when difficulties arise, so be proactive after delegating. Ask people how they’re doing and if they need help (which can come from teammates). Try not to be that micro-managing project manager who slows down the process and reduces the learning experience rather than giving the team member space. It’s a delicate balance, which you’ll find over time.
7. Choose which tasks to delegate.
As a project manager, your job is to manage the project, not execute it. Use your time on critical management tasks that only you can do—strategy, managing and directing the team, making executive decisions, analyzing data, etc. Delegate what you can’t do, and what doesn’t interest you.
8. Be generous in your praise and acknowledgment.
Praise good work, don’t take it for granted. Public recognition and acknowledgment inspires loyalty and increases motivation, engagement and general happiness. Share your appreciation in team meetings, emails, and don’t forget to include those praiseworthy points in performance reviews. Remember good work in mentoring and performance reviews.
9. Delegate for keeps.
Some team members might try to give a task back to you. Make an effort to find out why. Are they overwhelmed, under-confident or being uncooperative? Don’t let them off the hook so easily unless you’re staving off disaster. Work with a reluctant team member; mentor them at the difficult points so they experience success, not defeat. You’ll both reap the rewards down the line.
Delegating rewards everyone. Managers get time to do what they were hired to do, while team members develop skills and grow in their jobs. Few of us are born with natural delegating competencies. Keep at it, be brave and trusting—while remaining accountable for the outcome. These are just a few qualities that distinguish top-performing project managers from the rest.