Delegation is a skill that can be learnt, practised and improved…

One of the most recurring themes I experience during individual coaching sessions is how to delegate effectively.  Delegation, like most things, is a skill that can be learnt and the more it’s practised, the better we get.  Yet we are rarely taught how to do it effectively. When I’m coaching new managers, it’s usually THE biggest development area.  Many people find it difficult to let go of tasks that they should no longer be doing for the following reasons:
  • They are familiar and comfortable – It’s less scary to do the things we are used to rather than learning the new aspects of a role.  It’s not uncommon for the whole management team, from the CEO down, to operate a level below their capacity because they insist on undertaking tasks that should be done the people who report to them.
  • No-one can do it as well as them –  Let’s face it, no-one can do things as well as we can!  However, remember that while we are trying to do everything, we are denying those coming up behind us from learning.  If someone hadn’t given you a chance to learn (and make mistakes), you wouldn’t be where you are now.
  • Lack of time – Too busy to show someone else how to do it.  This is so counter productive.  Often you only need to show someone once, and they will be able to do it themselves going forward, freeing you up to do the things you should be doing.  Schedule time in the diary (which is always possible, no matter how busy you are) to show staff how to do the tasks that they should be doing – resist the temptation to do things for them if you find them struggling.
  • Worrying about overloading the team – We often underestimate the capacity of the people who work for us.  Managers will tell me that they feel they are overloading their staff and therefore, have to do more everyday tasks themselves.  My advice is to inform your team(s) that you will be giving them more work.  However, stress that it is their responsibility to tell you if their workload becomes too much.  You must remember to check in regularly to review their capacity, as some may not feel confident in telling you if they have too much.  Together, you can then decide if work needs to be postponed or reallocated.
Good delegation, however, is not just reserved for business interactions, it’s also important to learn how to delegate to our nearest and dearest! My top tip for delegating is to be clear about ‘What/Why/When’:
  • What you want – Be clear about what it is that you want them to do (the ‘how’ isn’t always as important – sometimes people may have a different/better way of doing something than you!).  If you are vague, you’ll get vague outputs often resulting in re-work and time lost.
  • Why you want it – This is THE most important part of delegating any task.  When people know why they are required to do something and how it fits into the bigger picture, they are more likely to get it done promptly.  This is one of the greatest mistakes that people make when delegating.  If you don’t tell someone why they are required to do something, they’ll often assign their own priority to it.  (It’s actually quite scary how many people don’t realise why they are doing tasks and how they add value).
  • When you want it – This is critical and yet often overlooked.  Again, if an individual isn’t told when a piece of work is required, they will attach their own timescales to it.
Also, remember to check in regularly.  Some people won’t say if they are struggling for fear of being judged.  Let your team know that it’s OK to be unsure and encourage them to come to you if they need extra support. Finally, remember to tell them they did a good job!  One of the biggest complaints I get from clients is that they feel undervalued because of a lack of recognition for a job well done.  Thanking someone and telling them they did a good job (as long as it’s sincere) undoubtedly increases motivation, team spirit and loyalty.

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