Delegating is an essential skill in today’s workplace explains Sam Warner

There are times when we all need to delegate yet some of us find this easier than others.

The art of delegating appropriately is an essential skill both to ensure the job gets done, and to develop other team members as well as ourselves.

Let me share some tips to help you improve your delegating and the delegation of those you work closely with:

Get to know the team

If you are new to a role don’t start making changes immediately.  Get to know people, understand their ways of working so you can appreciate their world – before you add to it.  Learn about their deliverables, and understand their touchpoints with other teams, their concerns and challenges.  This will pay off massively in the long run.

Share clear goals

Be really clear about your vision and mission and share it with your team.  If they understand the direction the team is going in, and the objectives that need to be achieved they will start to think about how they can contribute.

Give useful feedback

If you can’t give useful and usable feedback it will become very challenging for you to delegate a second time.  You need to give specific examples of where things went well or didn’t go so well and why. Help them articulate how they might mitigate anything that didn’t go well in the future, so that the issues melt away.

Request help

If people feel respected, they’ll offer to help you to achieve your objectives and goals.  There’s no room for insecurity or game-playing.  If others can see your vulnerable side, when you don’t have all the answers, they will know that you value consulting with them and leveraging their knowledge and experience when solving problems.

Enable skill sharing and enhancement

If there is a task that needs to be done that uses a specific skill, there may be a chance to upskill a more junior member of the team. If you can help avoid silo thinking, delegating tasks across the team will upskill them and ensure that no-one when they return from holiday is faced with a pile of work, as it’s been absorbed by the team.  You’ll help create a harmonious environment where everyone knows their teammates have their backs.

Improve problem solving

If some has a good idea to solve a problem see if you can arrange for them to lead on a project, with you as a consultant (so they don’t feel isolated). This raises their profile, makes them feel respected and gives them a specific deliverable. This can help prove that they can deliver over and above the standard job description (important in competitive corporate climates).

By definition people don’t recognise their unconscious incompetence

If you are working with a new employee, support them, advise them and check in with them (without micromanaging them) when completing new tasks.  Agree set times to check in so that they can ask any questions they may have.  There has to be a level of trust, and smothering someone daily by asking them if they have completed a task yet serves no-one.  Set an agreed deadline and adjust it (with mutual agreement) along the way if necessary.

Explain why before how

If you’re helping someone learn a new task explain why a task has to be done so they understand the value they are delivering and how it fits into the bigger picture.  Only then will they be able to absorb the nuts and bolts of the task.  When delivering instructions for a task, start with the end in mind and be specific about the desired end result. Clearly outline the lines of accountability, responsibility and authority. Be extra clear on touch points/milestones and deadlines – get them diarised. Organise a review once the work has ended so you can give feedback.

Become self-aware

Understanding your impact on others will greatly enhance your ability to delegate effectively and your listening skills. Seek to understand first, then question.  Listening is the most useful skill you can cultivate.  It validates the person speaking and makes them feel heard.  Ask for feedback from people in your team and respond to that feedback if you can, so they know you are paying attention and adapting.

Finally, always be encouraging.  Try saying “I see you doing A.  I think you’ll be particularly good at B, why don’t you have a go?”

Sam Warner is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and ... (Read More)

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