The Art of Delegating

Let’s face it. Some of us are control freaks. We like to have a hand – and a say – in everything that happens, everywhere, all the time. But if you want to get ahead at work, making the most of your time and your professional strengths, you simply can’t do everything. For that reason, one of the most valuable skills you can hone is the ability to delegate.

Do it right and you’ll be a leader contributing to a thriving team atmosphere. Do it wrong, and you’ll be seen as a micromanaging selfish opportunist. Follow these six secrets of delegating and you’ll reap the rewards of responsibilities well-shared – not to mention a job well done!

1. Relinquish resistance
One of the most common reasons we’re afraid to delegate is that we’re worried that giving a task away will render us unnecessary. Everybody wants to be needed, right? Right. And that’s exactly the point. People who don’t delegate – no matter how overworked or under-rested – often hold on to information, making their co-worker’s jobs more difficult by denying them valuable access.

However, contrary to the info hoarder’s belief, sharing the responsibility and workload can often highlight your strengths (and your smarts!). By knowing where to turn to accomplish which tasks, you put your astute observation skills on display and allow yourself to work smarter. Plus, by reaching out or asking for help, you’ll allow your colleagues to feel needed too!

2. Know your team
The importance of selecting the right person for the right job cannot be understated. If it’s an organizational task you need help with, don’t pick the creative whose desk is a clutter-mine. If you need a fresh take and a facelift on an artistic project, don’t go to the IT assistant. Naturally, your field of choice will be limited, but try to know your teams strengths and weaknesses as well as knowing your own. This way, when the time comes to reach out you know where to turn.

3. Establish expectations
Now that you’ve picked your go-to person, be sure to lay out clear expectations for the task at hand. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for frustration and probably, more work. After you’ve explained what the job is and why you need help with it (a looming deadline, a sped-up time frame, another task that the boss has told you takes priority), be sure to make the objectives of the assignment clear to the person who is taking it on for you.

4. Don’t delegate and ditch
Likewise, while it may seem like, by handing this responsibility off, you’re absolved of responsibility, delegating is not ditching and shouldn’t be treated as such. In other words, if you drop a job on a colleague never to appear again (or offer any help with questions), you’ll undoubtedly create confusion and possibly, resentment. Make sure that the person you’re enlisting feels that they can come to you with questions and understands that you’re asking them to handle this in order to give the task the time and energy it deserves – not just to make your life easier. As long as they understand that you’re willing to help them out too, odds are, they’ll do their best for you.

5. Keep it interesting
Okay, so it’s tempting to hand off all the spreadsheets and keep the fun stuff for yourself… but odds are if all you ever delegate are menial and boring jobs, your go-to-group is going to lose steam fast. However, if you mix it up, sharing the fun and exciting jobs as well as the, well, less pleasant more tedious ones, you’ll ensure that nobody feels like you’re taking advantage of them. In fact, they may even start to look forward to some of the assignments you throw their way.

6. Trust your choice
Last, but certainly not least, in the delegating handbook is perhaps the most important skill. Once you’ve let go of a responsibility and offered all the help you can, you’ve got to let go and trust that the person you’ve chosen can handle it. If you stand over their shoulder or check in every two seconds, micromanaging their use of the words a, and or the, you’re not only going to foster problems, you’re going to affect the job… for the worse. While one or two check ins will help to make the person you’ve enlisted feel more confident and well cared for, any more than that and you’re not only showing your insecurities, you’re defeating your overall purpose.

Sure, it’s a delicate balance between demanding a job gets done, delegating or dumping a project on someone else, but it’s worth the effort to perfect your delegating skills. If you dedicate as much time and effort to this area of interaction – just like you would perfecting your people management and organizational skills – you’ll be on your way to a bright future in any company or group. Good luck!

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