What is delegation?
Delegation is when you assign tasks to other people. And no, it’s not a matter of “you do it because I don’t want to”. A delegation leadership style isn’t about passing on the tasks you can’t be bothered to do, it’s about entrusting responsibility, accountability and opportunity. Sure, you could write that report yourself like you’ve done 100 times before, or you could ask your junior team member to and grant them a new experience. And just like that, professional development has occurred.
Delegating responsibility is a fundamental principle of any hierarchy, even if your company culture aims to keep it flat. Everyone needs a chance to prove themselves, and that is something only delegating responsibility can achieve.
Tips for effective delegation
Effective delegation takes some practice. You can’t just hand out work and expect your team to happily get on with any delegated task. You need to ensure you’ve given them the right task. Successful delegation is about tapping into each individual team member’s talents and enabling them to learn new skills along the way.
Here are some top tips on how to manage tasks effectively:
Know your team
Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. The members of your team may all collectively work in marketing, for example, but individually, they will have different, highly valuable skills. It’s your job as an effective leader to recognise these. For example, you may want to avoid giving organisational tasks to creative thinkers rather than logical thinkers. In doing so, not only are you not utilising the skill sets of your team, you can also breed resentment, as your team sees that their individual gifts are not being recognised or valued.
One way of helping avoid this issue is to allow for some level of volunteering. Make a to-do list that can be easily shared, edited and updated. Ask your team first of all if they would like to take on any specific task. People naturally pick what they know they can succeed in. In this way, you can see your team’s best skills in practice and build on that for future delegated tasks.
It’s not about the work but how people do it
Project management and leadership is as much of a challenge as any of the delegated tasks you are handing out. Take the time to really understand what is needed from your team and precisely how you are going to deliver it. Does your team have enough time? Is this task too important to be handed to anyone but a senior team member? Does your workflow allow for easy inclusion of junior team members into the project? True leadership skills are about valuing the person, not just the work.
As team leader, you need to create the best environment for functionality. Whether that’s setting up a smart workspace, making allowances like flexible working to avoid burnout or electing new managers to bring more structure and guidance. Reel World found that their workflows had to adapt to different time zones, and to do that, they turned to Dropbox; “Working in different time zones can be tricky. If we need to send a file to the UK at three o’clock our time, it’s midnight there. But Dropbox Business will sync everything the next morning when the person turns on his or her computer”.
Don’t micromanage, but do react
There’s a difference between being a good leader and being an overbearing one. Micromanaging is almost always a negative thing and it will only lead to more negativity among your team. The delegation process means you are putting others in control of tasks. You are trusting them and empowering them to take on the challenge. That is what team collaboration is all about. By refusing to fully let go of control, you will actively create work silos, and are sure to see the impact of that in the end result.
Where you will need to step up as manager is if things go wrong. Make sure you make allowances to fix teething problems, and have a structure in place so that team members taking on new tasks have someone to lean on. This way, they won’t have to escalate things straight to you the minute things start going wrong. That doesn’t mean you can’t stay on top of them – you can still keep an eye on things using shared documents and annotations. This lets you stay in the loop without breathing down anyone’s neck.
Do follow up
Just because you delegate responsibilities, that doesn’t mean you no longer have your own. You are still there to be an effective leader, so be one. Check in with your team often, make sure you are approachable whenever they need it. Offer constructive criticism and make sure you are giving guidance to team members taking on a new task for the first time. Remember, if someone struggles with a task, it may all boil down to a lack of effective management.
Tools like file version history and recovery are ideal here. Maybe a team member does something wrong and needs to take a few steps back. Maybe they’ve lost sight of the big picture as they worry about their new responsibilities and need to revert to the original. Dropbox can help accommodate all these very human behaviours that happen when a team is learning and growing together.
Share as much as possible
If you are used to working by yourself, you may think it’s enough for you alone to have all the key information to hand when solving a problem. As a delegator and motivational leader, you must share this with your team. Knowledge really is power and your team needs to be kept in the loop. Always share the due dates, briefs and key correspondence associated with your delegated tasks. This isn’t about letting go of responsibility, it’s about knowing that it is shared by a single, collaborative, effective team. A team you have now empowered to respond to the best of their ability.