For much of your career, you’ve read or heard that one of the key approaches to getting things done is to delegate effectively.
This presumes that you have others to whom you can delegate. In my contact with more than 950 organizations over the last two and a half decades, I’ve found increasingly that people have fewer resources, a lower budget, and less staff. If they want to get something done, often they have to do it themselves!
The first or second time you personally tackle a particular task yields valuable information. You learn more about the nature of the task, perhaps how long it takes, whether you enjoy doing it or not, and so on. By the third time, a task of the same ilk as those you’ve handled before often becomes best handled by someone reporting to you, assuming you do have others to whom you can delegate.
Tasks Far and Wide
On the path to getting things done, your quest is to identify all those things that you can possibly delegate to others and then prepare those others so that they have a high probability of succeeding. Such tasks could involve updating a database, completing an interim report, or assembling meeting notes.
In the course of your workday, there might be only a handful of things that you and you alone need to do because of your experience, insight, or specialized knowledge. Everything else that can be delegated should be delegated.
Some people feel they have to take care of everything themselves and to this day haven’t been able to break the habit of “doing it all.” If this someone is in your seat right now, recognize once and for all that as a category of one, you can only get so much done. Many managers and supervisors fail to delegate effectively because either they don’t fully trust the people with whom they’re working, or they’ve always been get-it-all-done-by-myself types.
Take Time Before You Assign
Prior to delegating anything to anyone, take the time to actually prepare your staff for delegation. This would involve assessing an employee’s skills, interests, and needs. You could even ask people what new tasks and responsibilities they would like to assume. You might be surprised at the wide variety of responses you receive. There might be people on your staff right now who can help you with tasks you’ve been dying to hand off to someone but didn’t see how or when you could put them into play.
While you want to delegate to staff people who show enthusiasm, initiative and interest, or have otherwise previously demonstrated the ability to handle and balance several tasks at once, sometimes you have to delegate to someone who has not exhibited any of the above. In that case, delegate on a piece-meal basis. Ensure that the staff person is able to effectively handle the small task or tasks he’s been assigned and does not feel swamped or overloaded. When the staff person demonstrates competence, you can increase the complexity of assignments and even the frequency with which you delegate.