Does it feel like your whole organization would grind to a halt if you missed a day? Feeling overloaded, overwhelmed, and stressed out as a result? Chances are, you’re not actually as indispensable as you think, so it’s a good time to accept that you can’t do everything yourself, and identify strategies to focus your efforts and maximize results by delegating.
Let’s be honest, it’s no secret that delegating creates a more engaged work environment—employees feel challenged, trusted, and are supported in honing new skills that will ultimately help your organization and their careers. In fact, you probably know that passing off some of your more routine tasks is smart, and can free up your time to focus on more strategic, high-return projects. But in practice, handing over some of your responsibilities can feel harder and more time consuming than just doing it all yourself.
Use these steps to delegate work more smoothly and effectively:
1. Figure out the “what”. Keep tabs on what you’re actually spending time on to identify areas you may be hoarding work. If you don’t already, start writing down all the tasks you accomplish in a day. Writing it all down makes it easy to pick out which of those things only you can tackle, and which of them could easily be passed on to someone else.
Once you’ve got your list, circle any activities that take up your time, and that don’t actually require your specific expertise. These are tasks you are going to delegate from now on.
2. Identify the “who”. Look at the activities you’re going to delegate, and pick the right person for the task. Don’t just hand tasks to whoever looks least busy (unless it’s something really basic). Match it to someone whose strengths fit. This means being observant, tracking results, and knowing your employees well.
3. Articulate the “how”. Delegating doesn’t mean tossing a job over to someone else and crossing your fingers, hoping for the best! Instead of zooming past, dropping a task on your employee’s desk, and running out the door, take the time to set them up to complete the job successfully.
Set some parameters at the beginning: articulate the acceptable standards, the requirements, desired outcomes, and a reasonable timeline, then establish some buffer time. Set a check-in meeting a few days before the deadline so that you can make sure everything is on track. This reassures you that the job will get done (and done well), and means employees will have a chance to address concerns without jeopardizing the timeline (and won’t feel tossed in the deep end)!
4. Pass it off (for real). For delegation to work, you have to be okay with others arriving at results differently than you. Give employees some flexibility with how they get the job done. When you’re handing off a task to an employee, do it once, and do it completely. That means passing off some actual responsibility, and the authority to make decisions.
Giving over complete ownership of the task might seem like a scary leap of faith, but it’s one worth taking. Passing off psychological ownership of a task allows you to focus on higher level duties, and empowers employees. If you can’t trust employees to make their mistakes and learn from them, now’s the time to develop that ability. No one learns anything from having someone else make critical decisions and judgment calls for them all the time.
5. Recognize them. Employees taking on more responsibility and taking some of the weight off your shoulders? That’s great! Now make sure they know how much you appreciate them for it!
Your Engaged HR Assignment:
Feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the week? Sit down and write everything you can remember doing today, right now. Now circle three things you could have passed off, and write someone else’s name next to it. See how painless that was?